You've never had a day off, have you?
Why? Are you indispensable?
No. I don't want them to find out what they can do without me.
Ikiru, meaning "I want to live," is a black and white Japanese drama film that was directed by Akira Kurosawa and was written by Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, and Hideo Oguni. It was released on October 9, 1952 in Japan, and was released with a runtime of 143 minutes.
Kanji Watanabe is the chief of the Citizen's Section for the Japanese government. He's worked there for thirty years without missing a single day, and today just seems like every other dreary day. He sits at his desk, stamping papers. However, today isn't like every other day. Today is the day that he's going to learn that he's dying. Watanabe has terminal cancer of the stomach, a sentence so close to death that even the doctors won't tell him he has it.
When Watanabe begins to look back on his life, and the realization that he only has one to six months to live, he realizes that he's done absolutely nothing with his life. He's a meaningless drone at work, not accomplishing anything for the citizens he's supposed to work for. His son is distanced from him, and after his wife passed away he refused to fall in love again for the sake of his son. So he starts a small journey of the self, in which he attempts to figure out what he should do with his remaining days.
There are really two parts to this film, the first part is in which we learn about what Watanabe was like. How he acts and how he thinks. By the end of the first part, he decides what he's going to do with his remaining days and has changed drastically from the uptight, confused bureacrat. The second part begins five months later, soon after Watanabe's death. There we hear of his accomplishment of turning a sewage infested area into a children's park. However, there are also many that would take claim to this accomplishment, and we are shown how much Watanabe has changed through flashbacks as people recall stories about him.
One of the many arguements against Ikiru is its slowness and length. The second part seems to drudge along as more people jump up to tell their stories. In some ways, this was Akira Kurosawa's purpose. He needed this sort of slowness to demonstrate the way the bureacrats worked. Though the scene with Watanabe singing his old song in a swing is perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in the film, if Kurosawa had ended the film on that point it would be a much happier film. However, that is not what Kurosawa wished to demonstrate, he wanted to show despite the overall accomplishments of one man would not change the system. He wanted to give a very depressing ending.
Recently, it has been said the movie Life as a House takes some ideas from this Kurosawa classic.
Takashi Shimura - Kanji Watanabe
Nobuo Kaneko - Mitsuo Watanabe, Kanji's son
Kyôko Seki - Kazue Watanabe, Mitsuo's wife
Makoto Kobori - Kiichi Watanabe, Kanji's Brother
Kumeko Urabe - Tatsu Watanabe, Kiichi's Wife
Yoshie Minami - The Maid
Miki Odagiri - Toyo Odagiri, employee
Kamatari Fujiwara - Ono, Office under-chief
Minosuke Yamada - Saito, employee
Haruo Tanaka - Sakai
Bokuzen Hidari - Ohara
Shinichi Himori - Kimura
Minoru Chiaki - Noguchi
Nobuo Nakamura - Deputy Mayor
Kusuo Abe - City Assemblyman
Life is so short
Fall in love, dear maiden
While your lips are still red
And before you are cold,
For there will be no tomorrow.