When a ronin requesting seppuku at a feudal lord's palace is told of the brutal suicide of another ronin who previously visited, he reveals how their pasts are intertwined - and in doing so challenges the clan's integrity.
Peace in 17th-century Japan causes the Shogunate's breakup of warrior clans, throwing thousands of samurai out of work and into poverty. An honorable end to such fate under the samurai code is ritual suicide, or hara-kiri (self-inflicted disembowelment). An elder warrior, Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) seeks admittance to the house of a feudal lord to commit the act. There, he learns of the fate of his son-in-law, a young samurai who sought work at the house but was instead barbarically forced to commit traditional hara-kiri in an excruciating manner with a dull bamboo blade. In flashbacks the samurai tells the tragic story of his son-in-law, and how he was forced to sell his real sword to support his sick wife and child. Tsugumo thus sets in motion a tense showdown of revenge against the house.Written by
Kevin Rayburn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
While filming, Tatsuya Nakadai was afraid during most of the sword and spear fighting scenes because real swords were being used, a practice now forbidden in Japanese films. His concern was not alleviated even though professional swordsmen were employed during the choreographed swordplay. See more »
When Hanshiro first arrives at House Iyi he states that his master's house fell in 1619 (as translated in the subtitles) but he actually says Genna 5 (which is correct according to the calendar used in Japan at this time). Japan did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1873. The film was released and the subtitles made after Japan had already adopted the Gregorian calendar, however, so it made more sense for both Japanese and foreign audiences to render the year in Gregorian style. See more »
Seven Samurai is pretty great, but I think Harakiri is even better. This tale of a ronin seeking revenge and exposing the flawed samurai code is so close to perfection. The story is engrossing and despite the slow pacing it's never boring. What the production lacks in scale it makes up for with emotional intensity. The sparse, ominous score is perfect for this film. The direction and cinematography are masterful and the camera's slow pans and zooms really butter my croissant. The editing is great and purposeful too. There's not a single weak performance but Tatsuya Nakadai in the leading role steals the show.
My only complaints are with some of the pacing and fight choreography. There's a standoff scene in the middle that could have been cut (since it felt like a cheap way to build tension and it wouldn't make sense for them to continue waiting afterward) and the long flashback could have also been trimmed. The film is 2 hours 13 minutes but I think exactly 2 hours would have been perfect. From a fight choreography standpoint the one-on-one fight scenes were well done but climax was shaky. There were many interesting ideas and moments in there, but also several points where I was like "okay, how did they not strike him there?"
Harakiri is an outstanding film that deserves more attention. If you haven't seen this film check it out. The Criterion restoration is absolutely beautiful. I intentionally kept this review vague since it's best to go into it knowing as little as possible. With a few thousand more ratings, this film would be pretty high up on the IMDb Top 250, and I'd be delighted to see it there.
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