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Harakiri (1962)

September. 15,1962
| Drama Action History
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Peace in 17th-century Japan causes the Shogunate's breakup of warrior clans, throwing thousands of samurai out of work and into poverty. An honorable end to such fate under the samurai code is ritual suicide, or hara-kiri.


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hyped garbage


Good films always raise compelling questions, whether the format is fiction or documentary fact.

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Blistering performances.

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The movie's neither hopeful in contrived ways, nor hopeless in different contrived ways. Somehow it manages to be wonderful


The concept of ritual suicide in the form of Harakiri, otherwise known as Seppuku, has captivated western imaginations for centuries. Indeed, the very notion of suicide, for religious or social reasons is viewed with a feeling of disdain within the western mindset. However, ritual suicide held an important ceremonial role for members of the Samurai class in ancient Japan. Viewed as an important component of the Samurai's Bushido warrior code, Harakiri was often used as a punishment but was often done voluntarily as well. It was a matter of honor and upheld the tradition of the warrior code. Harakiri forces the audience to confront the brutality of such a tradition and questions the morality of it. During the film, the main character questions both Bushido and the authenticity of the warrior code. He asserts that Bushido is a mere facade rather than a symbol of discipline. Whether or not these assertions are true, is a question that Harakiri leaves for the audience to decide.During the Edo period of the Tokugawa shogunate in Japan, it was common for master less samurai who were known as Ronin to request to commit harakiri in the palace of feudal lords.In this tradition, a man who goes by the name of Tsugumo Hanshirō requests to commit suicide at a powerful feudal lord's courtyard. Masaki Kobayashi directed this film to start out slow with the old man Hanshirō narrating a story. The story is about how the powerful clan at the courtyard was responsible for the death of Hanshirō's entire family. The old man confronts the powerful feudal clan in such a calm and authoritative manner that the audience is left at the edge of their seats. Hanshirō's daughter was married to a poor Samurai that was so destitute that he had to sell his blade to care for his family. He has a young baby who unfortunately gets sick and becomes desperately in need of medicine. When Hanshirō's son in law came to the Li clan seeking alms for medicine, they chose to punish him for disgracefully giving up his Samurai sword by forcing him to disembowel himself in the Seppuku fashion using the only sword he had left: a dull bamboo katana. After covering the dramatic backstory, the movie masterfully builds up to the final conclusion where Hanshirō uses every last ounce of his Samurai abilities to fight his way into the feudal lord's compound to desecrate his hall. The sheer force of will and determination displayed by Hanshirō's character on-screen is a testament to the acting abilities of Tatsuya Nakadai.Despite being shot in black and white, the film is aesthetically appealing as it depicts idyllic Japanese villages and sword fights in Samurai graveyards. At the climax of the film, the greatest line of the film is spoken. Before the culminating final sword battle, the main character proudly proclaims, "Motome had indeed gone mad. But I say good for him! I praise him for it. He may have been a samurai, but he was a man of flesh and blood. He could not live on air alone. When he has reached the point of no return, even a man as strong as Motome will go mad trying to protect his family, and I would praise him for it. They'll call him the bamboo ronin. Not only samurai, but townspeople, too, will scoff at his wavering. But let them laugh all they want. Who can fathom the depths of another man's heart?".


Tsugumo Hanshiro, a Samurai with no lord (ronin), goes to the estate of Li clan to commit Harakiri (Japanese ritual suicide), yet a senior counselor there tells him a story about the fate of a younger ronin that came to the clan holding the same request. The story that was intended to scare away Hanshiro only carried him to tell a story of his own and so he did in the oddest fashion. And through flashbacks we learn it and the more we know the more we understand.. the more we feel.. the more we think.Harakiri (1962), that its events are set out between 1619 and 1630 of the Edo period, is a perfect study of the human mind, heart, and soul. It is also a study of the human relations and that of the society and individual..Through its characters and their contradicting personalities you will learn a lot.. Sincerity and hypocrisy, faith and appearances, love and hate, caring and indifference, courage and fear... The social structure: flaws and corruptness.. The society's symbols and traditions: their depth and when they are only a cover. And then there is history: how it happens and then how it is written. This is all one thing about Harakiri and the other aspects that make a film are just as perfect.. the cinematography, soundtrack, acting.. every single aspect.. and the duels we see reminded me of the duels in "The good, the bad, and the ugly', only that here it's with swords.Truly the film is a masterpiece.. a journey that you should undergo.


Harakiri is a must see film. A ronin's appearance bears much more significance than it seems at first glance. As his tale unfolds, the tension in the film can be felt as it grows and grows incredibly until it is nearly unbearable. When the tension breaks in the showdowns between our hero and the samurai of the house of Iyi, it is with a vitality that bursts from the screen. The ending is incredible, tying together all the themes in a bloodbath that offers no hope that this will not happen again. The selfish and cruel house of Iyi grows in stature and there seems to be no prospect of betterment for the honourable warriors. The film exposes the bushido code as a farse wherein the honourable are exploited by the selfish. Incredibly shot, written, acted, it is an astounding achievement by director Masaki Kobayashi. Go see it at your next opportunity.


This has to be the best movie I have seen in a while. Good luck to me that I would like to pass on to you.We have two warring narrators. The first begins the film as an entry in his journal as local governor of a wealthy country estate. The film is closed with him finishing his entry, some days later. This official narrative deviates from what we see at the end.His story: one, then a second unattached ronin appeal to commit suicide in their courtyard. The first of these it is plain is just looking to be paid to leave, but our narrator is very strict about cleaving to that ronin's story. If he says he wants to kill himself, well then he must. This poor man had sold his sword and was now carrying bamboo, and it is this that he was forced to use. The resulting death is disturbing.So midway in the film, we have a samurai who has suffered because he was forced to live his story, forced by the narrator-governor who we later watch not live the story he has created and instead change it to suit.Now along comes an older samurai with the same request. He is dealt with in the same manner, but insists on telling a story to the assembled household before killing himself. He tells an amazing story: a fall from grace of his master, the dissolution of the household, poverty. His frail daughter and her son lay dying without a few coins for a doctor. The man's son is his daughter's husband, and it is he that came and was forced to die. The wife and son do as well, shortly after. Details of that death were told by the governor to the elder samurai earlier, though known because of the mocking way the body was returned.Until now, we have a classic case of warring narrative. We have the captive audience assembled. One storyteller is an official, so much so that he controls the official version of the film's story. The other has power in his gritty, true story. That story, incidentally is very close to what I consider noir: a random innocent fellow is cast in circumstances that seem full of circumstance and accident. The events of his life are played out not as they would in real life but as they would in a fictional life in a story told by others.Truth versus power in a struggle for the story of the film, essentially a struggle for the allegiance of the outer audience: us.The two beings as they face off are perfect in small mannerisms belying tension.Then slowly, the governor's world explodes as we learn new bits of the elder ronin's story of recent events. Many die.We (the audience) and control of all the cinematic effects was won by the ronin. Our governor is seen at the end writing the official account to be seen by his master that for his safety eradicates all story on both sides. The main actor, the winner, features in some of Kurosawa's best work as well.