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I own many of Akira Kurosawa's films. I have Ran, Throne of blood,
Seven Samarai, Roshomon, Dreams, Hidden Fortress, Jojimbo, Snajuro, Red
Beard, and even "Kurosawa" the documentary. I guess you can say that I
like his work. The "Kurosawa" documentary narrated by Sam Shepard and
produced by thirteen / WNET I recommend for anyone at all interested in
Kurosawa's films as it will really wet your appetite.
Of all of his films, Dersu Uzala is my favorite. It is also one of my favorite films by anybody. It was done shortly after Akira had went through a very dark time in his life and had attempted suicide. It was his first film afterwards and the content of the film appears to reflect more than a little of his mindset at the time. Dersu Uazla is both a feel good film and also a sad film. It touches the way that people as they grow older have a more and more difficult time adapting to life as it changes and has its affect on them. The end of the film can certainly show light on the inhumanity that appears to be growing more prevalent in our society. But, I think what you remember from the film is the love between two individuals, and that is what feels good.
Many of Kurosawa's films have a great deal of spectacle, and he is perhaps known best for his Samarai films. There is none of that in this movie. Dersu Uzala is a statement by Akira of life. Akira was fighting to keep making films and was not having an easy time of it. If Akira Kurosawa could not make films, he could not feel that he was living. As a result, he attempted suicide. He survived to make this film plus many others that we all enjoy today. Dersu Uzala may be the most important of his films and the one that shows the great director's true personality. Just perhaps, it shows more about humanity than any of his other films. Again, it is my favorite.
This is one of my definite favorites.It tells a story of a man who is one
with the wilderness and nature and cant live any other way.Dersu Uzala is an
old Goldi(siberian asiatic minority) hunter who thinks he has been cursed
after he kills a tiger.To him,every being,every part of the nature is
equally worth as humans.
The film gives us accounts of one Russian captain's friendship with Dersu.They are together through thick and thin and Dersu even rescues him from a blizzard when they are stuck on a frozen lake.Dersu has all the natural senses and therefore knows when he is in danger.He knows everything by looking and observing the landscape around him.
So when he kills the tiger,its like a spell has been cast on him.Or is it just his imagination?His people believe in a ghost that rules the taiga,Kanga.He thinks Kanga will punish him in some way.Soon his fears start to get real.He cant kill his prey for food that he needs for living because his eyesight dramatically worsens.One frightening night(my favorite scene) it gets too much for him,listening to the howling wind in the dark,waiting for Kanga to send a tiger to kill him.And captain Arseniev,seeing the horror that struck him,offers him to come with him to his hometown.It happens so.
Throughout the film,you cant help but wonder what will happen to Dersu.Not only because in the beginning Arseniev searches for his grave,in retrospection,but also because he is one lonely,sad man who lives only by hunting.There is no place for him but the taiga.And when the tragedy happens,its hard not to feel remorse and pity the old Dersu.His world has come crashing down.The end specially is painful and shows that there is no mercy in this world for a man who falls from grace in his own homeground.
In the end,this film has outstanding photography,outstanding music,outstanding cast,beautiful scenery and do i need to say anything about the director? A timeless work that can never be surpassed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After the box office failure of Dodes'ka-Den, Kurosawa
was extremely depressed and attempted
suicide. After his recovery, he got
over his depressive state
and directed the Japanese/Russian
Set in the forests of Siberia in the 19th century, Dersu Uzala is one of the most important films about friendship ever made. It tells the story of Captain Vladimir Arseniev (Yuri Solomine) as he leads an expedition through the woods. While his group is camping one night, a small mountain man named Dersu Uzala (Maxim Munzuk) comes across the men and agrees to act as their guide. The friendship between Dersu and Vladimir grows over the years and Vladimir urges Dersu to return to the city with him but the latter always refuses. Finally Dersu agrees to go, but finds that it is a very difficult adjustment to make.
This was the first Kurosawa film that I ever saw and it amazed me in so many ways. The beautiful landscapes, the well-developed characters, and most importantly, the great friendship between Dersu and Vladimir make this one of my favorite films.
..and his name was Akira Kurosawa. Once upon a time there was a simple
man: a hunter, and simple story of friendship and reflection about
life. Once upon a time a magnificent director and film crew have put a
beautiful story on the screen with such perfection, that in our days we
look back and we wonder: why movies like this are not being made
It doesn't matter if you like any other Kurosawa's works or any other 'Russian' films, because this one would touch you so much that you would go back and looked for similar films I wish I could see this film in all his beauty: on a big screen, in the original format (70 mm), as I felt that I missed a lot of details from the TV format.
There are directors and there is Kurosawa, there are dramas and there are Russian stories, so when you put both of them together, what do you get? Dersu Uzala!
Enjoy it, at least as much I did
A wonderful film. It showcases the natural beauty of the Taiga and presents a contrast between the technological and the pastoral. Dersu is one with the forest. He knows its ways and its moods. The Russians scoff at his ways and his 'primitive' belief system, but eventually come to rely on him, and even love him. It is a beautiful story that takes place in an world that very few of us in the West have had a chance to see. I thought the fact that the film was set in the pre-revolutionary period gave it a peculiar sort of charm - Russia before the Great War and the Russian Revolution was innocent and even naive, the same way the Russian soldiers were innocent of the wonders and the dangers of the Taiga. One of the things I loved most about this film was the cinematography - there are long, lingering shots of the landscape, the endless steppe, the forest, the rivers, the mountains. We believe ourselves to be powerful because we have been moderately successful in our attempts to harness nature for our own uses, but the film shows us that we are deluding ourselves, that nature cannot be controlled or resisted, and the truly powerful are those, like Dersu, who co-exist in harmony with nature and learn what the wilderness teaches.
Akira Kurosawa was a masterful director and powerful storyteller, Dersu
has always been my favourite of his films. It was also the first I saw
- on Christmas Day afternoon 1978 on UK BBC2 - would that they were as
adventurous nowadays! Since then of course I've seen all of his films
from Stray Dog on, Rashomon and Ran being especial favourites, but I
keep on coming back to watch this one, ostensibly the simplest tale
Kurosawa ever filmed.
The understanding and bonding that develops between the two men Arseniev and Dersu is wonderful to see, and over two hours holds your attention with expertly observed minutiae of character and scenic interplay. The last ten minutes cover a lot of ground (no pun intended) but it's all so logical and sad that I always need to see the end credits to recover.
So many marvellous scenes: the tiger in the forest in the morning; the phlegmatic reclusive old Chinaman; the raft; wispy blue shaded smoke from night-fires; the conclusion of course; the view of those two great men, the Moon and the Sun in the same shot. Not everyone would like Dersu, their most likely comments being "boring" - but how wrong they are they'll never know!
A film not fit to lick Dersu Uzala's metaphorical boots (or even Plan 9 from Outer Space's for that matter), Blazing Saddles was filmed the same year in America and a generation on still gets more praise than this poetic masterpiece!
Dersu Uzala is slow, serene, beautiful, but nevertheless gripping. It tells of the friendship between a nomadic Siberian native and a Russian army explorer, and how the former is able to help the latter and his team to negotiate the many obstacles presented by the Siberian wilderness. We see how traditional survival methods and intrinsic common sense can help the more urbanised army men to cope with the extremes of climate and geography. Eventually the nomad is persuaded to join the general on his trip back to a town. His ignorance of urban life is apparent, but interesting nevertheless, as we do not imagine such people nor meet them in everyday life today. Kurosawa is on top form here, letting the camera take in the vastness of Siberia, and still allowing the viewers to observe the characters closely. The story is interesting too, with a sadly ironic ending (won't say any more!). I think everybody should watch this film, because everybody will have something to learn from it.
One of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.
Simple, gentle gold hunter-guide Munzuk teaches Russian explorer Solomine the rules of survival in Siberia; they develop mutual respect and friendship.
The acting by Maksim Munzuk is wonderful and this is one of Kurosawas
You never forget this amazing film.
For a variety of reasons (that are well known in the darker period of
the director's history at this time), Akira Kurosawa left Japan to make
a film in Russia (Siberia to be exact). Instead of an epic action
picture, he went to one of his other passions as a storyteller- the
drama of pure humanity (like Ikiru and Red Beard, this film follows in
that vein). The film runs two hours and twenty minutes, but it is a
kind of epic story, that does have that pulse of adventure from his
other films. But this time he combines that method of a big, spacious
environment in the wild with a deep character study. His craftsmanship
as a 'painter' of the frame is top-notch as always (all pretensions
aside, he is one of the masters at finding the textures and moods in a
scene's look as in its character and action), and the use of locations
brings a quality that directors today would brush aside with via
special and visual effects. Simply put, it is one of, if not the,
ultimate testaments to man vs/with nature, with a character that
remains one of the most memorable that Kurosawa's envisioned.
To give an idea of who Dersu Uzala is to someone who hasn't seen the film, picture Yoda without the ability to lift objects with his mind and to kick ass with a light-saber, but still contains all of the direct wisdom and strength that make him one with his surroundings (and, as well, uses his own kind of 'force' for knowledge and defense, and for attack as an ultimately final resort). As a lonesome hunter and drifter with a family tragically lost, Dersu comes upon a team of explorers led by Captain Aseniev (Yuri Solomon, not the best performance but sturdy enough to sustain the physical scenes). He goes along with them as a guide of the sights and smells and feelings that the others just can't sense (out of lack of experience). Aseniev and Dersu end up becoming friends as they brace a torrid windstorm over a bare, wintry landscape, as Kurosawa brings out one of his towering sequences (topping anything David Lean could've drummed up for sure).
It's always of interest to me to see characters doing things on screen, having to go against the elements that almost dwarf them in the face of nature (i.e. Cast Away's hour and a half second act). Dersu Uzala seems to be of few words and mostly actions, and soon gains respect and admiration after an odd introduction to the team- he shoots with a keener than keen eye, he spots tracks, he sets up protection in the harshest of conditions, and is always a step ahead of the pack. And bringing all this out is actor Maksim Munzuk, who appears here (like Falconetti in Passion of Joan of Arc) in the performance of a lifetime out of an otherwise obscure and small career. Munzuk never brings anything to Dersu that isn't in his character, and he makes at least a quarter of the film's success a reality (the other three-quarters could be attributed to Kurosawa alone). He can be tough, smart, funny (in an off-beat way), and if nothing else, humble. But more than anything, Munzuk makes Dersu seem alive in a way no other actor could've accomplished, and also brings out the better in Solomon's performance.
The story itself has a superb appeal most of the way, but it is in it's last act that 'Derzu Uzala' reaches an intensely tragic plane. Dersu does something (which I won't reveal here and has been discussed elsewhere on the message board) that brings great shame to his own self-worth. In this part of the film, Kurosawa brings out what can be said to be some of the saddest moments in any of his work, however not without logic. While it was likely a major dramatic function in the novel, Kurosawa doesn't just throw these last twenty minutes or so to let steam flow out of the picture. I sensed something almost cathartic about these scenes, that rose the qualities of the rest of the story to a higher level, to one of almost spiritual in nature. It's hard to really pin-point to one who has not seen the film (and, indeed, I have seen the film all of one time). But once its over, you may feel you have seen a work far more rewarding than imaginable- even in awe.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dersu Uzala is not just the quintessence of pristine cinema or a
landmark in art cinema, but is also a living proof that brilliance can
be achieved with absolute simplicity. Storytelling is undoubtedly one
of the most potent tools known to man: from the Illiad and Odyssey of
Homer to the tales of Jataka, to the 1001 nights of Arabia, to the
tales of Panchatantra, to the plays of Shakespeare, man has always
found ways to amuse himself by spinning the yarn of his imagination.
These tales, though picturesque, fantastic and resplendent, mostly
overlooked the potency of austerity vis-à-vis grandeur as an element of
revelation powerful enough to transcend the effects of all other
affects know to man. Only a handful of storytellers like Akira Kurosawa
and Satyajit Ray have shown the grit and perspicacity to use simplicity
as the weapon to incite and hence portray the deepest of the human
emotions on the celluloid. Kurosawa demonstrated the might of
simplicity as an element that can pack a punch for the first time in
Ikiru and followed it up with an unending list of pristine cinematic
masterpieces including Seven Samurai. But, even Kurosawa's greatest
critic would not find it hard to concede that cinema does not get any
purer than Dersu Uzala.
Dersu Uzala is a poignant tale of human bonding of trust, friendship and adoration between two contrasting individuals: a nomadic hunter and an army explorer. Captain Arseniev and his troops are on a topographic expedition and while camping during a night, they come across Dersu, who happens to be an aboriginal (Goldi) tribesman. Being fully aware of the handicap of being in a remote and tricky territory and of the indispensability of having an indigene in the ranks, Arseniev asks Dersu to be their guide. Dersu being humbled by Arseniev's courtesy obliges his offer almost immediately. We soon witness a great sense of camaraderie developing between the two of them as Dersu rises in status from being a comrade to a stalwart and a friend in the eyes of the captain. The long years of experience had equipped Dersu with a great sense of intuition and psychic-like abilities to anticipate change and danger. Dersu uses his skills to good effect as he maneuvers captain and his troops through the harsh Siberian terrain, sheltering and guarding them from the cruelties and wilderness of the Tundra. Behind the façade of a rugged hunter, we see a man of profound intellect and deep compassion in Dersu which is most conspicuous in his respect for the old Chinese and his selflessness in rescuing Captain Arseniev and one of his men. After the expedition is over, Arseniev embraces Dersu and bids him farewell as Dersu returns to the wilderness. Few years later, when Arseniev returns to Siberia on another expedition, he once again encounters Dersu, who again proves to be handy, only this time round he appears to be aging really fast as time, which can be a great healer as well as a great leveler, had begun to take a toll on the Goldi. His eyesight deteriorates under the superstitious effect of a self-imposed curse after having killed a Siberian tiger, which the Goldis worship, in an act of self-defence. Arseniev, in his pitied adoration for Dersu, takes him to the city to live with his family. Arseniev's son gets greatly attached to Dersu and his story-telling abilities, but Dersu finds it difficult to adapt to the relatively restricted and significantly tamed urban life and soon realizes that his life has been reduced to that of a captive. He implores the captain to let him return to the wilderness of the woods. With great reluctance, Arseniev grants him the permission to leave, but not before presenting his savior with a brand new rifle as a parting gift and a souvenir. Few months later, Arseniev receives a letter informing him that a dead body of a Goldi has been found with no identification on it barring Arseniev's visiting card. As Arseniev pays a visit to the place of burial, he identifies the dead Goldi to be none other than Dersu Uzala. The investigating officer speculates the Goldi's brand new rifle might have lured someone into killing him.
Dersu Uzala is not just a movie, but is an experience of a lifetime. Dersu Uzala is the only movie that Akira Kurosawa shot in a language other than Japanese and he proved it once and for all that cinema at its most pristine, knows no bounds or barriers. Kurosawa uses his auteurist mastery to bring the memoirs of Russian explorer, Vladimir Arsenyev to life as he inexplicably metamorphoses cinema to new levels of poignancy and pristineness. The cinematography is breathtakingly picturesque and it evokes a sense of melancholy that makes the majestic Siberian wilderness appear hypnotic and at times, surreal. The panoramic shot of Dersu and Arseniev looking at the horizon caparisoned with the juxtaposition of the setting sun and the rising moon is also indicative of their respective lives: Dersu is long past his prime and there is no hope for revival, but Arsieniev's is still in his prime and has a promising career ahead. Dersu Uzala is strongly suggestive of the sole consistency in human life: change. It also demonstrates the might of nature as an unforgiving force, strong enough to humble even the most savage of the creatures. Dersu Uzala can also be termed as an allegorical account of the environmental imbalance that unrestrained human intervention is causing.
Dersu Uzala, besides being one of Kurosawa's greatest masterpieces is one of those rare cinematic gems which can be relished again and again, each time with a completely different perspective. It's a must watch for everyone who loves and understands cinema. 10/10
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