Following World War II, a retired professor, approaching his autumn years, finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
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This film tells the story of professor Uehida Hyakken-sama (1889-1971), in Gotemba, around the forties. He was a university professor until an air raid, when he left to become a writer and has to live in a hut. His mood has hardly changed, not by the change nor by time. Every year his students celebrate his birthday, issuing the question "Mahda kai?" (not yet?), just to hear Uehida-san's answer "Madada yo!" (No, not yet!), in a ritual of self affirmation, and desires of lasting forever. It's a very "japanese" film who portrays everyday life and customs in Japan. Written by
Jaime Moraga <email@example.com>
I just finished watching "Madadayo" and can still feel tears welling up. I was moved at the beautiful movie and its message of kindness and living well. It took me a while to get into the film as it is rather slow and not much does happen, but Kurosawa is a master of mood, characterization and setting the scene and gradually, the movie takes its hold on you.
The movie starts with the Professor's retirement from teaching. We learn he taught German, and he must have been a good teacher as well as quite a character, because large numbers of his students stay in touch with him through the decades. Kurosawa shows us that the students love and respect him dearly, as well as finding him eccentric. They refer to him as "solid gold". However, I kept asking "Why? Why would these people with busy lives, following their own paths, continue to hold birthday parties for their eccentric old professor?" And as the movie continued, I found myself answering my own question. Why not? It's a win-win situation for all involved. The students value the professor's company and despite joking protests to the contrary, the professor enjoys the visits and increasingly comes to depend on them. In post-WWII Japan, there must have been little to celebrate, so having an annual excuse to get together with people you enjoy would be reason enough. Kurosawa also expounds on one of his main themes from "Red Beard"; kindness begets kindness and that is what we continually shown in "Madadayo". The students help build the professor a new house after his home is destroyed in the fire-bombing of Tokyo. The professor loses his cat and the students and the community band together to try to find it, celebrating and congratulating one another when they think they find it, and commiserating and empathizing when they don't. The annual birthday parties continue and evolve from just the male students drinking with their professor to banquets involving their wives and children. I began to fall under the spell of how wonderful it would be to be part of this community, to know these people, to know there were others looking out for me, willing to help if I needed it, relishing my company, and knowing that once a year I could get together with all my friends from school (the ones we all lose touch with because our busy lives follow diverging paths), celebrate the life of a great man (a favourite teacher's lessons stay with you forever) and be part of something bigger and gentler and kinder.
I can understand why someone expecting the excitement of "Seven Samurai", the suspense of "High and Low", or the innovation of "Rashomon" would be disappointed in "Madadayo", but if you enjoyed the lessons of "Red Beard", the gentle pull of "Madadayo" will delight and soothe you. You'll be left with a serene feeling of well-being, wishing you could be one of the Professor's students.
18 of 19 people found this review helpful.
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