Festival du Nouveau Cinema: ‘Hara-kiri Death of a Samurai’ powerful and affecting

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Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai

Directed by Takashi Miike

Japan, 2011

Moving from one genre to the next with ambition and passion, Miike’s newest effort is always worth a look. His newest film is an adaptation of the famed novel, Yasuhiko Takiguchi, which depicts one samurai’s false claim for seppuku at Lord’s home and the revenge that motivates him to tarnish his honor.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a desperate melodrama. It is a tragedy in the highest order, told in a series of flashbacks. The film feels like an appropriate companion piece to his previous samurai film, 13 Assassins. Both set during a period of peace, they demonstrate the changing role of the warrior class. They are both very different interpretations of the Samurai narrative but offering complementary musings on honor, war and bravery.

The film’s violence, which is used sparingly, is nonetheless frightening. These scenes are not gratuitous, serving important developments in character and narrative. The non-linear format serving a unique purpose of forcing the audience to question their judgements and perceptions. It utilizes a Rashomon-esque structure as a means of questioning more than just the concept of truth, but our perception of individual value and social norms.

This also marks Miike’s first use of 3-D technology. He decides to go for subtlety and the technique is barely noticeable during most of the running length. On occasion it will further serve to add depth to camera movements or the mise-en-scene but overall it adds little to the film. 3-D technology has yet to prove its value as a creative expression. The film would lose nothing if it were screened in two dimensions.

With the exception of perhaps, Avatar (a film that is not good to begin with ) 3-D technology has yet to prove it’s value. It has not become an invaluable tool worth contributing to the film’s artistry. Though perhaps we simply do not have the critical framework available to properly interpret or analyze its employment. Cinema itself was dismissed as a passing fad, taking on value only as it accumulated social and cultural significance. Perhaps this is the future of 3-D filmmaking.

Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai is a powerful and affecting film. It shows little prejudice in portraying a corrupt system of values that hurt the innocent and noble. 3-D not withstanding, the film has a strong visual sense built around the colour red, which comes to represent different aspects of life and honor.

– Justine Smith

The Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma – October 12 – 23 – Visit the official website

1 Comment
  1. Sasa says

    It would be appropriate to compare or at least mention the original 1962 movie.
    And Rashomon-esque structure? Is it really?

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