Akira Kurosawa is by far one of the most brilliant storytellers of the 21st century. He is most well known for his movies focusing on the samurai way of life, which includes a great deal of bravery and loyalty. Ikiru is one of the few films set in the modern era that Kurosawa directed. However, the main character also displays a great deal of bravery in becoming who we all as humans aspire to become – our true selves.
Kanji Watanabe is the main character, portrayed by Takashi Shimura, who has carried out the same routine in his mundane office job at the Tokyo City Council for 30 years. His greatest achievement was not missing a day of work. Everyone at the office followed the standard bureaucratic procedures. Watanabe is diagnosed with stomach cancer, and goes on a journey of self-discovery throughout the film. He comes to the realization that anyone can follow their passion and have a positive impact on the world regardless of age. His family, friends, and co-workers are quite astonished regarding Watanabe’s sudden character change, and they also embark on a journey to understand his motives and reasoning behind his actions.
The title of the film translated from Japanese to English is “To Live”, which is highly applicable to the plot. There are so many answers to this question and it is debatable as to the most appropriate answer. I believe that truly living involves being engulfed in the moment, as well as being able to identify your values and pursue your passions. It has taken me some time to begin to answer those questions and to act on them, and it is part of the process of living. Watanabe suppressed that process for quite a while, I believe, until he was faced with the possibility of not being able to live his truth. Perhaps that is why so many around him were confused by his actions – why break the status quo and change your routine in life? Well, if someone is not fulfilled by their life course, then it is paramount that they re-examine their trajectory and try to change it. Watanabe was very courageous in tackling that concept as well as facing death. His actions display that we all as humans are valued members of Planet Earth, and that we can all be contributing members of society by living our truths.
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