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Kameda, who has been in an asylum on Okinawa, travels to Hokkaido. There he becomes involved with two women, Taeko and Ayako. Taeko comes to love Kameda, but is loved in turn by Akama. When Akama realizes that he will never have Taeko, his thoughts turn to murder, and great tragedy ensues. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Filmed as a two-part production running 265 minutes. Shochiku (the studio) told Akira Kurosawa that the film had to be cut in half, because it was too long; he told them, "In that case, better cut it lengthwise." The film was released truncated at 166 minutes. See more »
One of Kurosawa's least-seen films is "The Idiot". The film is set in Hokkaido, the northernmost area of Japan. Deep snow covers the earth, and is shoveled into barriers, seeps in through the ruins of a warehouse in great drifts, piles up against the windows in crescents, howls fiercely as Toshiro Mifune's character and Matsayuki Mori's "Prince Myishkin" step foot off a train into a blizzard.
Dostoevsky's great novel is the resource material.The Prince Myishkin character is Christ-like in the novel, and, as transplanted to Japan may be seen as a Boddhisatva-like character (an Avalokiteshvara or Kanon-a saint of compassion). Matsayuki Mori does an amazing job of portraying a damaged but compassionate soul..one that feels deeply the pain of those he encounters, and who speaks the truth simply, with a pure heart and an awareness of suffering. In one scene, he holds Toshiro Mifune's face between his small, gentle hands, and there is such a tender sensibility, his hands seem to communicate love and absorb the pain of Mifune's character. It is a breathtaking moment.
Toshiro Mifune is brilliantly cast as the thuggish suitor who vies with Mori for the soul of the beautiful and doomed Taeko Nasu character played with uncharacteristic drama by Setsuko Hara.
This complex, rich, layered, frightening, deeply disturbing film has been under-appreciated from the outset-beginning with the studio, which cut the film drastically (Kurosawa was outraged! *see trivia). Japanese audiences didn't understand or like the film, and other audiences have found it weird. Some of this relates directly to Donald Richie's seminal work on Kurosawa and his conclusion that "The Idiot" was a failure. Unfortunately, Richie's conclusion seems to have put replaced the nails in "The Idiot's" coffin with screws. It's very hard to pry open the film.
Sure, it is a weird film...that's what is so interesting. Kurosawa has made one of the most powerfully strange films, while stretching the range of his actors (have you ever imagined you would see Setsuko Hara like this? She's terrifying in her desperation and pain!) giving the scenes a grounded reality, and allowing us to enter into the lives of these tragic, doomed souls.
This is one of the finest films of world cinema, although one of the least-viewed.
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