In all the lists of best films in the history of cinema there are always titles that not everyone immediately recognizes among the eternal ‘Citizen Kane’ or ‘The Godfather’. Sometimes it is a film hidden by history like ‘Jeanne Dielman’ and other times it is a work that has always been among the most outstanding but that, for some reason, it has never achieved the notoriety it deserves. Now is your chance to get rid of the thorn on yourself. It’s time to enjoy ‘Harakiri‘.
We tend to believe that if a movie is considered a masterpiece, it will have an inherent component of pretentiousness in its offering. It is not what happens to the miracle directed by Masaki Kobayashi, which does not avoid sword-wielding samurai fights and continuous plot twists while modeling a fantastic characterbreaks down and criticizes abuses of power and creates immortal shots in sequences with a unique dramatic charge. ‘Harakiri’ has the privilege of being, perhaps, the best Asian film ever shotand in this last week on Amazon Prime Video you shouldn’t miss it (although it’s also on Filmin if time gets on you).
A faded samurai arrives at the Iyi clan house with the intention of having a room where he can do harakiri. This is the sad starting point of a film that, like the best magician in the world, he keeps several tricks up his sleeve and where nothing is what it seems. The revelations of the tape help to understand the historical context and, at the same time, they build each other as a puzzle in which each gap is covered by a new piece which reveals much more about it.
‘Harakiri’ is the symbol of resistance to authority, of the inhuman tendency of the powerful shielded by social protection against the nobility of an impoverished working class… And it is still as relevant now as it was in 1962. Because there are things that, throughout time and world geography, will never feel old. Kobayashi’s film is overwhelmingly modernwith a camera that always knows how to capture the perfect shot, spares no detail and gives birth to a story that, like an onion, always hides one more layer.
pain without reflection
There is a sector of the population that, without having seen any work by Akira Kurosawa, believes that they should be complicated to follow, products only appealing to critics and gafapasta snobbery. But, like ‘Harakiri’, these are timeless works, as fun as they are easy to watch, no matter how much they leave behind. If what was stopping you was the fear of being bored, don’t worry: Kobayashi’s film It has a plot base of apparent simplicity on which it is capable of building a highly complex discourse. based on subtlety and detail.
Hanshiro, the main ronin, has only one last mission in life: make the moment of your death something that honors all those you have left behind. And for this he does not hesitate to turn the tables with stupendously inserted turns of effect at the key moments of the film, without ever betraying the spirit of the character, who lives under the rules of Bushido. without this preventing him from standing up to someone who does not hesitate for a moment to observe how he takes his own life.
As Hanshiro explains his intentions, Saito, the head of the house, does not react with pity or pity, but with laziness, as if enduring seppuku from a person would be worse for him than for the future suicide. As the center of his own universe, all words of praise towards the samurai are clearly templates, simple lies to stage a pain that has not even reflected. He tries to prevent a new harakiri in his house not to make the samurai reconsider, but because of the obvious annoyance that results in his routine. He has many things to do, can’t he die somewhere else?
Movies like ‘Harakiri’ remind us what cinema exists for. We have seen thousands of films, but none is capable of causing the shivers of dignity of this absolute marvel, shot firmly and with a script so fabulous that not even in its last scene does it leave a stitch without a thread. The apparent slowness of its plot is the way in which the story penetrates the viewer. Confident and determined, with impressive artistic compositions on camera (watch out for that tatami with Hanshiro’s shadow on it) and it looks just as splendid now as it did then.
You can rarely see films to which it is impossible to object: there will be those who indicate that they have unnecessarily cruel scenes (everything related to bamboo swords), but they are necessary to be indignant at the impassivity of those who believe they have the winning hand and the employees who refuse to rebel lest they end up in the same place. “What happens to others today can be your destiny tomorrow”sums up the samurai for sure shortly after the start of the tape.
The samurai facade, the strange bravery of those who maintain honor even living a miserable life, the cowardly false determination… ‘Harakiri’ not only judges human tragedy, but also humanity itself under a lens of rectitude, revenge and honor that punishes all the characters without allowing any of them to emerge victorious from an individual suicide that ends up being, somehow, collective: the x-ray of an era that cannot help resonating today like the sound of two katanas fighting at sunset.
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