1952 | Drama | 143 minutes | Japanese with English subtitles
Kanji Watanabe is a middle-aged civil servant who worked in a dead-end boring job for over 30 years. His wife died and Watanabe now lives with his son and daughter-in-law. Watanabe’s son cares little about his father’s well-being but more about his expected inheritance. One day Watanabe learns he has terminal stomach cancer and only a few months to live. Rather than tell his son, Watanabe withdraws money from his bank account and is determined to experience the pleasures of Tokyo’s nightlife. But Watanabe soon realizes this is not enough for him. His son and daughter-in-law are no comfort to him. A female subordinate tells him she found happiness making toys. This inspires Watanabe to do something with his life. He uses the time he has left to build a children’s playground. He succeeds. But then, Watanabe dies. At his wake his workers commiserate and wonder about Watanabe’s dramatic change the months before he died. How did a listless bureaucrat suddenly become a passionate advocate for building of a children’ s playground? They learn that Watanabe knew he was dying and he wanted to do something with his life. This inspires Watanabe’s co-workers to have the same kind of dedication and passion. But will this dedication and passion continue after the workers go back to their offices? Or will it be short lived?
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
Berlin International Film Festival: Winner, Special Prize of the Berlin Senate
BAFTA Awards: Nominated, Best Actor (Takashi Shimura)
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I have seen IKIRU every five years or so and each time it has moved me and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us.
Kurosawa often flashes that cinematic style of sharp reportage and introspection of his characters that distinguishes this film. He patiently studies his people, gives them plenty of time to move and surrounds them with rich and meaningful details in composing almost every scene.
Director Akira Kurosawa here unspools a work of compassion. He performs a tour-de-force in keeping a dramatic thread throughout and avoiding the mawkish.
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