Kameda, who has been in an asylum on Okinawa, travels to Hokkaido. There he becomes involved with two women, Taeko and Ayako. Taeko comes to love Kameda, but is loved in turn by Akama. When Akama realizes that he will never have Taeko, his thoughts turn to murder, and great tragedy ensues.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Akira Kurosawa in his autobiography describes this film - which was heavily edited from the director's original four-hour-and-twenty-six-minute version, by order of the studio, Shochiku - as "ruinous" to his career. Upon release, reviews of this film in the Japanese press were, according to Kurosawa, universally "scathing." ("It was as if [the reviews] were a mirror reflection of the studio's attitude toward me," he writes.) Not surprisingly, therefore, in the annual Kinema Junpo critics' poll for films released in 1951, The Idiot (1951) appears way down in the list, ranked at #18. Of all twenty five Japanese-language films that Kurosawa released from the end of the Second World War to the end of his career, this film is the only one that failed to place within the "Best Ten" list of films in the Kinema Junpo poll of its release year. In fact, it has been claimed that only the immense popularity of the film's star, Setsuko Hara, prevented the film from being a complete commercial disaster. See more »
[Kameda's cries in his sleep wakes himself up and others on the train, including Denkichi Akama]
That was some scream.
Forgive me. I was dreaming.
Dreaming? Sounded like you were being murdered.
I was - about to be shot. It's a recurring nightmare of mine. You see, I was convicted as a war criminal.
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In the Hall of the Mountain King
From "Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46"
Music by Edvard Grieg See more »
A beautiful series of set pieces
Masayuki Mori, the slain husband from Roshomon, is fantastic as Kameda, a pure and simple, yet insightful, man who remains mentally frail after recovering from a breakdown. The film chronicles his relationships with two very different women, both in love with him, and with the volatile and violent Akama, a perfect part for Toshiro Mifune. Prior to reading the novel, I found the plot disjointed and difficult to follow. I think this film is best appreciated as a series of set pieces. The interaction among the players in each scene is completely absorbing as Kameda, through his passivity and selflessness, elicits a whole range of emotions from the rest of the cast. Minoru Chiaki, the woodchopper samurai from Seven Samurai, has a small but absolutely riveting role.
The 2003 Russian miniseries by Vladimire Bortko, at nearly 10 hours, captures far more of Dostoyevski's novel than does this film. However, somehow, Kurosawa has been able to capture the essence of the novel. It's a shame that over an hour was cut from the film and is now lost.
Setsuko Hara is tremendous as the "Natassya" character from the novel and Chieko Higashiyama as the "Lizaveta" character. Both are regulars from Ozu films but its unusual to find them together in Kurosawa.
If you have read the novel, you won't have any trouble following the story, even though it has been transposed from czarist Russia to Post-WW II Japan. If you don't know the story, just enjoy the incredible acting and direction of Kurosawa.
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