Nothing is scarier than approaching the point where you are aware of your mortality. Well, a bear attack can be pretty scary too, but having death on your mind takes you to the next level of horror: realizing that maybe what you’ve been through so far isn’t exactly living fully.
Full existence is, of course, an unattainable ideal. Something to theorize about but easily accessible, because then everyone would enjoy the secret to having the perfect life. But it’s entertaining to fantasize about it, Putting everything you’ve experienced into perspective and considering what can still be done. It’s something that ‘Living’ tries to talk about Oliver Hermann although, really, they are reflections that come to him inherited from Akira Kurosawa.
To live like this is to die (of love)
‘Live‘ is one of the best works of one of Japan’s must-see filmmakers (probably the most important, although the most influential may be Yasujirō Ozu) and can be found on streaming platforms such as Filmin, Acontra+ or FilmBox+. A work of maturity, although it can be argued that he already reached it before his reflections on life and death. Nonetheless, it earns the name.
Takashi Shimura, who prior to this film had appeared in other Kurosawa films as an ordinary man, here plays a drab civil servant who receives the devastating news that he has incurable cancer. He knows that he has little time left, because his cancer is stomach and the doctor has given him permission to eat whatever he wants. This leads him to completely review everything he has experienced and tries to find meaning in it.
It is a complex, even painful search. Kurosawa is not shy about showing a devastating sadness in how this man realizes how little he has really achieved, breaking down near the commemorations of his years served as a bureaucrat. But ‘Living’ also finds spaces with which to surprise the viewer that the greatest of dramas is expected.
‘Living’: an eternal film
Its changes towards a rather shameless satire, its marked structure that offers a really different and even hopeful second half, the few hidden darts at bureaucratic inefficiency. Plot and tonal elements that give a fascinating complexity to the whole, also elevated by a splendid Shimura in his role and an exquisite black and white photograph of asakazu nakai.
However, the real reason to recover ‘Vivir’ not only today, but repeatedly, is just what makes it a work of eternal maturity. The film remains unchanged, because that is how the capture of moments that make up the cinema works, but with the years that the viewer ages, his perception varies remarkably.
The protagonist can go from being someone to feel sorry for to being a mirror where we can look at ourselves. That magical quality isn’t easy to capture, and it keeps Kurosawa’s film eternally alive and always worth celebrating.