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Reviews & Ratings for
Ikiru More at IMDbPro »

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

"the unexamined life is not worth living"

Author: Dmitri David Krasik from Boston, USA
18 May 2002

Watanabe realizes how inessential most of his life has been. "the mummy" has been dead for many years when he finds out about his body's illness. The coming of death awakens him to life. All previous considerations of remaining stable and safe are shattered (the man having slept for 30 years awakens to the emptiness of his life). What happens here is the neglect of the Delphi oracle "know thyself"; the approach of death forces Watanabe to examine his life, and this reveals the horrifying void. Many men postpone Socrate's question "What is a good life" until some shock awakens them to the decades lost to thoughtlessness (perhaps many only awaken to quickly fall back asleep, like a slave awakened from wonderful dreams who demands to return to them). Watanabe's courage, as noted by the drinking novelist, is his serious consideration of his life (stand and fight) rather than going back to sleep or suicide (run like hell).

Watanabe's courting of the working girl is a determination to find something in life, and at their last meeting she gives him the necessary clue. How can you be so happy? She answers that she makes bunnies and thinks many children are happy thanks to her. She lives with some meaning, however trite. Watanabe returns to work determined to do something meaningful. He is happy as soon as he gets the idea and until he dies, working honestly to help create something beautiful.

The song sung by him, in the first instant(when drunk) seems to suggest a passionate hedonistic life - given the atmospher this interpretation fits; however the second singing (his last words) is Watanabe swinging on a swing in the park he helped build. In the first he is melancholy and weeping, in the second he is joyous. The words can be paraphrased "life is short. fall in love maiden. don't let the passion in your heart die". Watanabe's message is not to indulge in drunken forgetfulness but to find something worthwhile to love, and use one's passion to create something good. It is an appeal to not fall into self-forgeting, but awaken to the urgency of life and the need to love beauty and create it.

Watanabe says, "I don't have time to be angry". The urgency he feels makes this clear - there is only time to love and admire. In light of his purpose, anger is pettiness.

while admiring the sky "This is beautiful. For 30 years I have not noticed".

The movie also comments on the apathy of people in bearocracy. He reveals that one man can do great things and that apathy is evil that destroys society.

Kirasowa asks us to examine out lives, to awaken and look about. Beauty is going unadmired, and men capable of creating beauty are passing the bucket.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

This film sneaks the meaning of life into a fascinating story.

Author: lowellhill from LA
9 April 2002

Ikiru (To Live) gets my vote for movie of the century. If you can tolerate an older, slow-paced B&W film with subtitles, give it a try. It's set in urban Japan, around 1950, so it's less "foreign" than some other Japanese films made around that time. I've seen it in several video rental stores over the years, both dubbed and subtitled.

In order not to spoil the plot, let's just say that as a result of a series of events, a bureaucrat approaching retirement age realizes that his life to date hasn't amounted to much, and, given an opportunity to reflect, tries to do something about it. Then, just as you find yourself thinking "Gee, that sure was a short, sweet movie!" there is the bonus of a long and fascinating denouement. As movies go, it's a two-fer.

Now I'm firmly in the camp of "keep your expectations under control and you'll have a better chance of enjoying the film." But, much as I believe that another Kurosawa film, Rashomon, illustrates human truth (one truth per person), I think Ikiru illustrates, in a wonderful story with no preaching, the meaning of human life: it's what we put into it.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A true classic!

Author: Big G-2 ( from California
24 January 2003

IKIRU is a masterpiece. I couldn't disagree more with the last reviewer who thought this was overrated!

For me it truly deservers to mentioned among the greatest features. Takashi Shimura, playing the dying bureaucrat, Watanabe gives one of the finest performances ever. In this feature, he looked so weak and fragile. But in SEVEN SAMURAI (as the head samurai Kamebi), he is strong and able. Some might think it was two different actors!

The man is dying of cancer for goodness sake. Not everyone handles the situation the same. Watanabe is just another soul trying to cope with the despair, and for me this was powerful stuff. (I should give kudos to Kurosawa. The man was able to do more than just epic samurai movies).

Hollywood tearjerkers don't compare with IKIRU. And eventhough this is a 50 year-old black and white foreign movie with subtitles, it shouldn't be an excuse not to watch this. Expand your horizons. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: ctowyi from Singapore
22 October 2015

In a Post-War Tokyo, when the bureaucratic chief of department of the City Hall Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) finds that he has a terminal cancer, he decides to intensively live his last months of life. While dying, he finds the meaning of life, and fights for the construction of a playground in a poor zone of the city and the legacy of his existence.

Ikiru means 'to live' and it is an undeniable masterpiece. With a story like that it would no doubt go the top-down preachy approach, but Kurosawa never treads the well-worn path and he has achieved something simply extraordinary here. There are a few scenes which are simply amazing and I will mention just one.

Watanabe is still at a loss with what he wants to do with the rest of his days. While baring his soul to his spunky ex-co-worker, he found his direction in his infinitesimal life. It is not what he realized that is incredible, it is the setting of that scene. It is at a restaurant with a staircase leading up to the seated area. In the background we see a group of office-type excitedly anticipating something. In the foreground we see Watanabe and the woman. The two different parties in the foreground and background are in the perfect juxtaposition. When Watanabe finally knows what he wants needs to do he walks with twinkling steps down the long stairs with a smile plastered on his face, and the group of office workers started launching into a birthday song for a person walking up the stairs. If that's not one of the most sublime scenes in cinema I don't know what it is. You see, the happy birthday song is for Watanabe's rebirth. Kurosawa is saying that it is not the number of days in your life that is important but what you do with your lot, however short it is, that is most important. My tears rolled...

Kurosawa is a master storyteller. It would be so easy to go the heart-rending route after that sublime scene but Kurosawa pulls everything including the throttle back to show Watanabe's funeral a few months later. It suddenly felt like a missed opportunity, a wasted move. It felt like a full-stop! But this final hour is a tour de force of sublime power as it becomes a critique of typical top-down human behavior and we also get an in-depth look into Watanabe's end days through the third person. Think a variation of Rashomon as we see flashbacks of Watanabe's efforts to do something not for himself but for a bunch poor folks. The narration by various people at the wake culminates to a haunting picture of Watanabe that I know I will never be able to forget forever, likewise with the life lesson learned.

Watanabe has left an indelible mark in a bare landscape and left a legacy behind, but the thing you have to remember steadfastly is that is never his intention. His intention is simple - he wants to cut through all the bureaucracy to build a playground for the common folk. For some people that is ludicrous and small, but for me life is about committing your best effort to performing a task that you deem meaningful. Taking religion aside, life is ultimately meaningless when everything is said and done. What everyone thinks about Watanabe is utterly beside the point. The lesson learnt here is that one's life is about bringing your best to anything you know is the right thing to do, like for me at this point, it is penning down my thoughts and feelings in this small little review. Masterpiece!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A dying man learns to appreciate life

Author: Maddyclassicfilms from United Kingdom
30 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ikiru is directed by Akira Kurosawa, is written by Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Shinobu Hasimoto, has music by Fumio Hayasaka and cinematography by Asakazu Nakai. The film stars Takashi Shimura and Miki Odagiri.

Kanji Watanabe(Takashi Shimura)is a weary office worker who has been suffering from stomach problems for a while. He goes for tests and scans and is called back to get the results. While he is in the waiting room a fellow patient is talking about different illnesses and unknowingly gives him the results as he describes the symptoms of stomach cancer, Watanabe recognises what he is describing as what he is suffering from. In this scene Shimura's face tells us all we need to know, he is terrified and the realisation of what he is suffering from hits him.

He realises that for so long he has let life pass him by and he sets out to try and understand life and enjoy it. He befriends Toyo Odagiri(Miki Odagiri)an outgoing young woman from his office, she is so full of life and he thinks that enjoying life is something he can learn from her, when in reality learning to appreciate life just happens to you.

Enjoying life doesn't just mean going to parties and having a good time, it can be marvelling at a sunrise or sunset or sitting quietly and enjoying what's going on around you. The scene where he tells her he is dying is so powerful, she looks at him like he is somehow going to suck the life from her and becomes afraid of him, he is so pitiful in that scene because he hasn't been able to tell his family of his fate but he has reached the point where he can no longer keep this knowledge to himself any longer, he has to tell someone.

Ultimately he realises he can use his job to be helpful to some local people and build a park for them. Takashi Shimura gives possibly his greatest performance in this, his face is a kaleidoscope of emotion and lets us see how scared this man is, his face really lets us see into this mans mind and soul more than any dialogue ever could. He knows his life so far has been wasteful but there is still time to do some good.

The famous scene where he sits on a swing in the snow is so beautiful and we see from his face that he is at peace with his situation, he's enjoying life in a quiet personal moment. This is a powerful, moving and uplifting film from one of Japan's greatest directors.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A moving, heart warming tale.

Author: ElirGuigs from Brazil
9 June 2015

I don't mean to sound cold or insensitive when i say that Watanabe's death isn't the problem. He is going to die, it was told to the viewers back at the beginning through a remarkable use of narration (Pay attention, Hollywood). The sad part is that he didn't really live all the years his heart beat. I, also, don't think this movie is meant for everyone. It's pretty old (Almost 65 years) and has subtitles. The character isn't that connectible if you weren't in his position a long time ago and the plot develops pretty slowly. But, actually, none of these are flaws. They make the movie as good as it is. They make "Ikiru" the masterpiece it truly is. Back at the beginning, when we first meet Watanabe-san in his daily work routine, we may feel sorry for him (if you've been at his place) or even something that remembers pity. Because, and this is a sign of how brilliant Kurosawa was as a director, with a single take we can understand most of the character. Shimura acts brilliantly, as usual, as a every-day-man who has nothing really special. I don't think i've seen character development as amazing as this one in any other movie, not even a Kurosawa one. The way the character grows around it's own core and, in a amazingly shot and directed scene, has it's peak. He, after all, did live. And, of course, life is brief.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Life is Brief; Fall in Love, Maidens!

Author: Chinmayee Mishra from India
27 March 2015

By far, Ikiru has been a favourite among Kurosawa's movies for me. While Takashi Shimura is featured in most of his movies, Ikiru witnesses one of his best performances. Unlike Kurosawa's many other movies, this one lacks of violence and battle save for the protagonist's battle against a deadly stomach cancer, threatening to perish him and his monotonous life to oblivion.

Bureaucracy, a choking network with unbiased existence in most countries in our world, can break the best of the stubborn. Wanatabe(our protagonist), a natural victim realises his folly after painfully boring 30 years of his life. This movie aimed neither for a happy ending nor for a revolution but just the daunting reality.

And undoubtedly the soundtrack 'Gondola No Uta' deserves a special mention. It is a most wonderful music, apt for this movie.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

you got to be joking, this movie is a whole new level !!!

Author: the-fearless-america from United States
20 February 2015

what is this ? you got to be joking ? is this real ? for real ? THIS MOVIE IS A WHOLE NEW LEVEL !!! He was a real trend-setter. He was a real father of the directors. He was a surprising influent man for the other directors. He was a PROFESSOR of movie. Kurosawa make a high jump for movie knowledge because of his appearance in this world. CAN YOU IMAGINE IF KUROSAWA DIDN'T BORNE IN THIS WORLD ? OUR MOVIE GENERATION WILL NOT DEVELOP AS GOOD AS NOW !!!

what ? do you ask me what makes this movie great ? then you must be joking right ? can't you see it ? i even can't tell you what makes this movie great. because this movie is pure great at all. the word "great" was in every aspect of this movie. so you wouldn't find anything that not "great". even a word "great" cant carry this movie, it's beyond. so if you once again ask me what makes this movie great, i wouldn't have a face if i say this movie is "great" if you know what i mean.

hey Kurosawa ! from now, i re-consider you to be one of the god of director. every time i watched the list of your movies, the more i appreciate you. i don't know why, i am speechless, it's just you're too genius as a human. you're the "founder of the next level"

so guys, iam sure most of you will not enjoy this movie. the only thing that can open your mind to consider this movie as "great" is to watch classic movies as much as you can. then you will find this movie is a god from the most movies that have ever created in this world.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Excellent social commentary

Author: mevmijaumau from Croatia
23 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ikiru (To Live) is partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's novella The Death of Ivan Illyich. It's a simple story of Kanji Watanabe an aging bureaucrat who one day discovers he has a stomach cancer and less than a year to live. He dedicates his remaining time to overcome the bureaucratic issues and turn an infested cesspool into a children's playground.

Ikiru is divided in two parts; the first serving as a captivating introduction to all characters presented in a moderate pace, and the 2nd part which seemed to complement the 1st part, and is notable for its slow pace and limited character use. Personally, I prefer the first half (it also has a way better soundtrack). And I love those hopping bunny toys.

The characters in the film are well-aware of the flawed system they live in, but do absolutely nothing to change it. After Watanabe's death, they drunkenly vow to act like him, but in the end nothing changes and they end up hidden behind mountains of paper. The scene where Watanabe is confronted by a threatening gangster, who leaves him alone immediately after seeing his "do what you want with me, I have nothing to lose anymore" face, is one of the best ones. The swing scene is also unforgettable. The snowy background accompanying it is a running Kurosawa theme of creatively utilizing weather elements. In his films, snow was always a synonym for inner peace and serenity.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Moving, unsentimental masterpiece

Author: jbirks106 from Washington, DC
10 September 2014

Based loosely on Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Ilych", this is a tale of the tragedy and redemption of a man whom few directors would dare featuring: a faceless, lifeless bureaucrat. Takashi Shimura plays said bureaucrat with stolid grace, never overplaying the physical and psychic pain that defines him for the first third of the film. He is estranged from his family, his employers, his life, until an improbable encounter with a lively, lovely former coworker and a pet rabbit. At last he sees how his life, so close to its end, can mean something.

I highly recommend the 2-disc Criterion set, which includes two documentaries on Kurosawa's life and work, and a commentary track by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, who's done similar work for Criterion's releases of "Throne of Blood", "Seven Samarai", "Ran" and several others. My lone complaint is with the transfer; typically a strength of Criterion's classic discs. While most scenes are clear, bright and unblemished, others have long stretches of vertical scratches and faded black tones. Knowing the attention to detail that other, even older, films have enjoyed, it's a bit jarring to see.

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