21 March 2007 | G_alina
Disharmony of Sword and Pen
I've said it once about another movie, incidentally by the other great Japanese director as well and I want to repeat my words in regard to "Harakiri": "There are good, very good, and even great movies. But among them there are just a few that go beyond great. They belong to the league of their own". Masaki Kobayashi's "Harakiri" aka "Seppuku" is one of them. The film of rare power and humanism, of highest artistic achievements, profoundly moving, tragic like the best Shakespeare's plays, universal and timeless even if it takes place in the faraway country of 1630, by the words of one of the reviewers "Harakiri" "is to cinema as the Sistine Chapel is to painting. Unsurpassable!"
The film grabbed me from the very first shot, from its opening credits with their perfect harmony of kanji (I believe it is a correct word to describe the writings) characters, with the unusual disturbing score and with the dark beauty of the images. And then the story begins that centers on Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai), one of hundreds or maybe even thousands unemployed lord less samurais, ronin, that in the blessed times of peace had not many choices to adjust to new life and often preferred to commit a ritual suicide, hara-kiri or seppuku on the property of the wealthy estate owners. According to Bushido, the way of the samurai, "One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind, by day and by night . . . the fact that he has to die. That is his chief business."
At the same time, samurai and anti-samurai film, "Harakiri" offers the masterfully screened scenes of sword-fights, not plentiful but exquisitely choreographed, perfectly paced and unbearably intense but the film is much more than that. It is also a gripping court drama where the truth is unfolded in the flashbacks. The viewers are allowed to look closer at the noble Samurai code of behavior and to reflect on how its abuse impacts the fate of an individual and the society in general. Compelling, poetic, and tragic, the movie has one of the most pessimistic endings ever that makes you wonder how the history is made, how the historical events are interpreted and who decides what would be written in the chronicles and important documents and what would be left out.
A Masterpiece, one of the best movies ever made, "Harakiri" deserves all its praise. It is not in my nature to force my opinion on anyone but if you call yourself a movie buff or a movie lover, you MUST see this film.