Harakiri (1962 film)

Last updated
Harakiri
Harakiri Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Screenplay by Shinobu Hashimoto
Based on"Ibunronin ki"
by Yasuhiko Takiguchi  [ ja ]
Produced byTatsuo Hosoya
Starring
Cinematography Yoshio Miyajima
Edited byHisashi Sagara
Music by Tōru Takemitsu
Production
company
Distributed byShochiku
Release date
  • 16 September 1962 (1962-09-16)
Running time
134 minutes [1]
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese

Harakiri (切腹, Seppuku [2] , 1962) is a 1962 Japanese jidaigeki drama film directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The story takes place between 1619 and 1630 during the Edo period and the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. It tells the story of the rōnin Hanshirō Tsugumo, [3] who requests to commit seppuku (harakiri) within the manor of a local feudal lord, using the opportunity to explain the events that drove him to ask for death before an audience of samurai. The film continues to receive critical acclaim, often considered one of the best samurai pictures ever made.

Contents

Plot

Edo, 1630. Tsugumo Hanshirō arrives at the estate of the Iyi clan and says that he wishes to commit seppuku within the courtyard of the palace. To deter him, Saitō Kageyu (Rentarō Mikuni), the daimyō's senior counselor, tells Hanshirō the story of another rōnin, Chijiiwa Motome -- formerly of the same clan as Hanshirō.

Saitō scornfully recalls the practice of rōnin requesting the chance to commit seppuku on the clan's land, hoping to be turned away and given alms. Motome arrived at the palace a few months earlier and made the same request as Hanshirō. Infuriated by the rising number of "suicide bluffs", the three most senior samurai of the clan -- Yazaki Hayato, Kawabe Umenosuke, and Omodaka Hikokuro -- persuaded Saitō to force Motome to follow through and kill himself. Upon examining Motome's swords, his blades were found to be made of bamboo. Enraged that any samurai would "pawn his soul", the House of Iyi forced Motome to disembowel himself with his own bamboo blade, making his death slow, agonizingly painful, and deeply humiliating.

Despite this warning, Hanshirō insists that he has never heard of Motome and says that he is sincere in wanting to commit seppuku. Just as the ceremony is about to begin, Hanshirō is asked to name the samurai who shall behead him when the ritual is complete. To the shock of Saitō and the Iyi retainers, Hanshirō successively names Hayato, Umenosuke, and Hikokuro — the three samurai who coerced the suicide of Motome. When messengers are dispatched to summon them, all three decline to come, with each claiming to be too ill to attend.

After provoking their laughter by calling bushido a facade, Hanshirō recounts his life story to the assembled samurai, starting with the admission that he did know Motome. In 1619, his clan was abolished by the Shōgun. His lord decided to commit seppuku and, as his most senior samurai, Hanshirō planned to die alongside him. To prevent this, Hanshirō's closest friend took his place instead, leaving Hanshirō responsible for his teenage son, Motome. In order to support Motome and his own daughter Miho, Hanshirō rented a hovel in the slums of Edo, taking up work as a fan and umbrella craftsman while Motome became a teacher. Realizing the love between Motome and Miho, Hanshirō arranged for them to marry. Soon after, they had a son, Kingo.

When Miho became ill with tuberculosis, Motome could not bear the thought of losing her and did everything to raise money to hire a doctor. When Kingo also fell ill, Motome left one morning, saying he planned to take out a loan from a moneylender. Later that evening, Hayato, Umenosuke, and Hikokuro brought Motome's mutilated body home and mocked his death before leaving. A few days later, Kingo died, and Miho lost the will to live and passed away, leaving Hanshirō with nothing. Finishing his story, Hanshirō explains that his sole desire is to join Motome, Miho, and Kingo in death. He explains, however, that they have every right to ask whether justice has been exacted for their deaths. Therefore, Hanshirō asks Saitō if he has any statement of regret to convey to Motome, Miho, and Kingo. He explains that, if Saitō does so, he will die without saying another word.

Saitō refuses to do so, calling Motome an "extortionist" who deserved to die. Hanshirō then reveals the last part of his story. Before coming to the Iyi estate, he had tracked down Hayato and Umenosuke and cut off their topknots. Hikokuro then visited Hanshirō's hovel and, with great respect, challenged him to a duel. After a brief but tense sword fight, Hikokuro suffers a double disgrace: his sword is broken and his topknot was taken as well. As proof of his story, Hanshirō removes their labelled topknots from his kimono and casts them upon the palace courtyard. He then mocks the Iyi clan, saying that if the men he humiliated were true samurai, they would not be hiding out of shame. Furthermore, he questions the clan's honor, pointing out that they have no right to judge Motome when they failed to investigate the reason why he asked to commit seppuku.

Having now lost face very badly, an enraged Saitō calls Hanshirō a madman and orders the retainers to kill him. In a fierce battle, Hanshirō kills four samurai, wounds eight, and contemptuously smashes into pieces an antique suit of armor which symbolizes the glorious history of the House of Iyi. Finally, the clan corners Hanshirō and prepares to kill him not with swords, but with three matchlock guns. As Hanshirō begins to commit seppuku, he is simultaneously shot by all three gunmen. Terrified that the Iyi clan will be abolished if word gets out that "a half starved rōnin" killed so many of their retainers, Saitō announces that all deaths caused by Hanshirō shall be explained by "illness". At the same time, a messenger returns reporting that Hikokuro had killed himself the day before, while Hayato and Umenosuke are both faking illness. Saitō angrily orders that Hayato and Umenosuke are to be forced to commit seppuku as atonement for losing their topknots.

As the suit of armor is cleaned and re-erected, a new entry in the official records of the House of Iyi is read through voiceover. Hanshirō is declared to have been mentally unstable, and he and Motome are both listed as having died through harakiri. The Shōgun is said to have issued a personal commendation to the lord of the Iyi clan for how his councilors handled the suicide bluffs of Motome and Hanshirō. At the end of his letter, the Shōgun praises the House of Iyi and their samurai as exemplars of bushido. As workers scrub the blood from the ground of the clan's estate, one of them finds a severed topknot and places it in his work bucket.

Cast

Themes

When asked about the theme of his film, Kobayashi said: "All of my pictures… are concerned with resisting an entrenched power. That’s what Harakiri is about, of course, and Rebellion as well. I suppose I've always challenged authority". [4]

Audie Bock describes the theme of Harakiri as "the inhumanity of this requirement for those who dutifully adhered to it, and the hypocrisy of those who enforced this practice". [5] The movie doesn't so much challenge the practice of seppuku; rather, it highlights an instance when it occurred in a punitive and hypocritical environment. The notions of honor and bravery associated with it can be a false front, as the protagonist puts it, serving more as a means of preserving reputations than of actually atoning for a crime or misdeed.

The empty suit of armor, shown in the beginning, symbolizes the past glory of the Iyi clan, and is treated by them with reverence. However, the samurai of the Iyi house behave like cowards in the fight with Tsugumo, who mockingly tries to use the armor as a shield before smashing it on the ground. Kobayashi makes a point here that this symbol of military prowess turns out to be an empty one. [6]

Kobayashi also attacks two other important attributes of the samurai rank: the sword and the topknot. Chijiwa finds out that his swords are of no use to him if he cannot provide for his family and so he sells them to pay for his son's medical care. When Tsugumo takes his revenge on the three men complicit in Chijiwa’s death, he prefers divesting them of their topknots rather than killing them. At the time, losing one's topknot was the same as losing one's sword, and death would be preferable to such dishonor. However, only one of the three samurai, Omodaka, actually commits seppuku, with the other two being forced by the clan to take their own lives at sword point. Thus, the way Tsugomo takes revenge is very subtle: he makes the clan live by the rules they claim to uphold and which they used to punish Chijiwa. [7]

The daily record book of the clan that appears in the beginning and the end of the film "represents the recorded lies of history". Tsugumo's death is falsely labeled as suicide, the three samurai and the men he killed are said to have died of natural causes rather than violence, and the entire story of his challenge to the clan is swept under the rug to protect the façade of "the unjust power structure" that the Iyi clan represents. [8]

Release

Harakiri was released in Japan in 1962. [1] The film was released by Shochiku Film of America with English subtitles in the United States in December 1963. [1]

Reception

In a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin stated that Masaki Kobayashi's "slow, measured cadence perfectly matches his subject" and that the "story itself is beautifully constructed". The review praised Tatsuya Nakadai's performance as a "brilliant, Mifune-like performance" and noted that the film was "on occasion brutal, particularly in the young samurai's terrible agony with his bamboo sword" and that although "some critics have remarked [...] that being gory is not the best way to deplore wanton bloodshed, Harakiri still looks splendid with its measured tracking shots, its slow zooms, its reflective overhead shots of the courtyard, and its frequent poised immobility". [9] The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther was unimpressed with "the tortured human drama in this film" but added that "Mr. Kobayashi does superb things with architectural compositions, moving forms and occasionally turbulent gyrations of struggling figures in the CinemaScope-size screen. He achieves a sort of visual mesmerization that is suitable to the curious nightmare mood". [10] Cid Corman wrote in Film Quarterly that "the beauty of the film seems largely due to Kobayashi’s underlying firmness of conception and prevailing spirit, by an unevasive concern for cinematic values". [11]

Donald Richie called it the director's "single finest picture" and quoted Kobayashi's mentor Keisuke Kinoshita who named it among the top five greatest Japanese films of all time. [12] Audie Bock wrote: "Harakiri avoids the sentimentality of some of his earlier films, such as The Human Condition , through a new emphasis on visual-auditory aesthetics with the cold formality of compositions and Takemutsu's electronic score. But none of Kobayashi's social protests is diminished in the film's construction - it's Mizoguchi-like circularity that bitterly denies any hope for human progress". [13] More recently Roger Ebert added Harakiri to his list of "Great Movies", writing in his 2012 review: "Samurai films, like westerns, need not be familiar genre stories. They can expand to contain stories of ethical challenges and human tragedy. Harakiri, one of the best of them, is about an older wandering samurai who takes his time to create an unanswerable dilemma for the elder of a powerful clan. By playing strictly within the rules of Bushido Code which governs the conduct of all samurai, he lures the powerful leader into a situation where sheer naked logic leaves him humiliated before his retainers". [14]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 100% rating based on eight critic reviews, with an average rating of 7.33/10. [15]

Awards

The film was entered in the competition category at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival. It lost the Palme d'Or to The Leopard , but received the Special Jury Award. [16]

Remake

The film was remade by Japanese director Takashi Miike as a 3D film titled Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai . It premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Related Research Articles

Masaki Kobayashi Japanese film director

Masaki Kobayashi was a Japanese film director, best known for the epic trilogy The Human Condition (1959–1961), the samurai films Harakiri (1962) and Samurai Rebellion (1967), and Kwaidan (1964), a set of four ghost stories.

Oda Nobunaga 16th-century Japanese samurai and warlord

Oda Nobunaga was a Japanese daimyo and one of the leading figures of the Sengoku period. He is regarded as the first "Great Unifier" of Japan. His reputation in war gave him the nickname of "Demon Daimyo" or "Demon King".

<i>Rōnin</i> A samurai without a lord

A rōnin was a samurai without a lord or master during the feudal period (1185–1868) of Japan. A samurai became masterless upon the death of his master or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege.

Forty-seven <i>rōnin</i> 18th century samurai battle

The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin, also known as the Akō incident or Akō vendetta, is a historical 18th-century event in Japan in which a band of rōnin avenged the death of their master. The incident has since become legendary. It is one of the three major adauchi vendetta incidents in Japan, alongside the Revenge of the Soga Brothers and the Igagoe vendetta.

Karō were top-ranking samurai officials and advisors in service to the daimyōs of feudal Japan.

<i>Lone Wolf and Cub</i> 1970–1976 manga about a rōnin assassin and his baby

Lone Wolf and Cub is a manga created by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. First published in 1970, the story was adapted into six films starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, four plays, a television series starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya, and is widely recognized as an important and influential work.

<i>Shinsengumi</i> 19th century Japanese special police force

The Shinsengumi was a special police force organized by the Bakufu during Japan's Bakumatsu period in 1863. It was active until 1869. It was founded to protect the shogunate representatives in Kyoto at a time when a controversial imperial edict to exclude foreign trade from Japan had been made and the Chōshū clan had been forced from the imperial court. The men were drawn from the sword schools of Edo.

Tatsuya Nakadai Japanese actor

Tatsuya Nakadai is a Japanese film actor famous for the wide variety of characters he has portrayed and many collaborations with famous Japanese film directors.

<i>Samurai Rebellion</i> 1967 Japanese film

Samurai Rebellion is a 1967 Japanese jidaigeki film directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The film is based on Hairyozuma shimatsu by Yasuhiko Takiguchi.

<i>Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades</i> 1972 Japanese film

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades, is the third in a series of six Japanese martial arts films based on the long-running Lone Wolf and Cub manga series about Ogami Ittō, a wandering assassin for hire who is accompanied by his young son, Daigoro.

<i>The 47 Ronin</i> (1941 film) 1941 film directed by Kenji Mizokuchi

The 47 Ronin is a black-and-white two-part jidaigeki Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, adapted from a play by Seika Mayama. The first part was released on December 1, 1941 with the second part being released on February 11 of the following year. The film depicts the legendary forty-seven Ronin and their plot to avenge the death of their lord, Asano Naganori, by killing Kira Yoshinaka, a shogunate official responsible for Asano being forced to commit seppuku.

Chūshingura is the title given to fictionalized accounts in Japanese literature, theater, and film that relate to the historical incident involving the forty-seven rōnin and their mission to avenge the death of their master, Asano Naganori. Including the early Kanadehon Chūshingura (仮名手本忠臣蔵), the story has been told in kabuki, bunraku, stage plays, films, novels, television shows and other media. With ten different television productions in the years 1997–2007 alone, Chūshingura ranks among the most familiar of all historical stories in Japan.

<i>The Fall of Ako Castle</i> 1978 Japanese film

The Fall of Ako Castle is a 1978 Japanese historical martial arts period film directed by Kinji Fukasaku. It depicts the story of the forty-seven Ronin (Chūshingura). The film is one of a series of period films by Fukasaku starring Yorozuya Kinnosuke, including Shogun's Samurai. The film received one nomination for the Award of the Japanese Academy for best cinematography.

Samurai cinema

Chanbara (チャンバラ), also commonly spelled "chambara", meaning "sword fighting" movies, denotes the Japanese film genre called samurai cinema in English and is roughly equivalent to Western and swashbuckler films. Chanbara is a sub-category of jidaigeki, which equates to period drama. Jidaigeki may refer to a story set in a historical period, though not necessarily dealing with a samurai character or depicting swordplay.

<i>Chūshingura 1/47</i> 2001 film by Shunsaku Kawamo

Chushingura 1/47 (忠臣蔵1/47) is a 2001 Japanese historical film based on the kabuki tale of the Forty-seven Ronin. The film was made for the Fuji TV Network and was directed by Shunsaku Kawamo.

<i>Chūshingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki</i> 1962 film

Chūshingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki is a 1962 Japanese period drama film (jidaigeki) directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Produced and distributed by Toho Studios, it is based on the story of the forty-seven rōnin. The film stars Toshiro Mifune as Genba Tawaraboshi, along with Matsumoto Hakuō I, Yūzō Kayama, Tatsuya Mihashi, Akira Takarada, Yosuke Natsuki, Makoto Satō, and Tadao Takashima.

<i>Seppuku</i> Form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment

Seppuku, sometimes referred to as Harakiri, is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. It was originally reserved for samurai in their code of honor but was also practiced by other Japanese people during the Shōwa period to restore honor for themselves or for their families. As a samurai practice, seppuku was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, as a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or performed because they had brought shame to themselves. The ceremonial disembowelment, which is usually part of a more elaborate ritual and performed in front of spectators, consists of plunging a short blade, traditionally a tantō, into the belly and drawing the blade from left to right, slicing the belly open. If the cut is deep enough, it can sever the descending aorta, causing a rapid death by blood loss.

<i>Hitokiri</i> (film) 1969 Japanese film

Hitokiri (人斬り) is a 1969 Japanese samurai film directed by Hideo Gosha set during the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and based on the lives of the historical Four Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu. It is notable for starring the famous author Yukio Mishima.

<i>Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai</i> 2011 film by Takashi Miike

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a 2011 Japanese 3D jidaigeki drama film directed by Takashi Miike. It was produced by Jeremy Thomas and Toshiaki Nakazawa, who previously teamed with Miike on his 2010 film 13 Assassins. The film is a 3D remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri.

Eleven Samurai, also known as 11 Samurai, is a 1967 Japanese jidaigeki film directed by Eiichi Kudo. This is the third and final chapter in Kudo's Samurai Revolution trilogy. The plot is a samurai epic with a loose historical basis. "The young Lord Nariatsu was probably modeled after the real life figure of Matsudaira Nariyoshi, also known as Matsudaira Tokunosuke (1819-1839)," who was the 19th or the 20th son of the Shōgun Ienari (1787-1837) and the younger brother of the Shōgun Ieyoshi (1837-1853). "Nariyoshi died when he was 19 years old--a perfect fit for this story. The circumstances surrounding his death are obscure, which is also very convenient for dramatic purposes."

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 Galbraith IV 1996, p. 207.
  2. For the difference between the terms harakiri (腹切り) and seppuku (切腹), see etymology.
  3. John Berra (2012). Japan 2. Intellect Books. pp. 151–153. ISBN   978-1-84150-551-0.
  4. Hoaglund, Linda (1994-05-01). "A Conversation with Kobayashi Masaki". Positions. 2 (2): 393. doi:10.1215/10679847-2-2-382. ISSN   1067-9847.
  5. Bock, Audie (1985). Japanese film directors. Tokyo: Kodansha International. p. 254. ISBN   0-87011-714-9. OCLC   12250480.
  6. Bock, p. 256
  7. Bock, pp. 257-258
  8. Bock, p. 257
  9. "Seppuku (Harakiri), Japan, 1962". Monthly Film Bulletin . Vol. 32 no. 372. London: British Film Institute. 1965. pp. 71–72.
  10. Crowther, Bosley (1964-08-05). "Screen: Samurai With Different Twist: Kobayashi's 'Harakiri' Arrives at Toho". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  11. Corman, Cid (Spring 1964). "Harakiri". Film Quarterly. 17 (3): 49 via JSTOR.
  12. Richie, Donald (2002). A hundred years of Japanese film (1st ed.). Tokyo: Kodansha International. pp. 164–165. ISBN   4-7700-2682-X. OCLC   47767410.
  13. Bock, p. 258
  14. Ebert, Roger (February 23, 2012). "Honor, morality, and ritual suicide". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  15. "Harakiri (1962)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  16. "Festival de Cannes: Harakiri". festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2009-02-27.

Sources

  • Galbraith IV, Stuart (1996). The Japanese Filmography: 1900 through 1994. McFarland. ISBN   0-7864-0032-3.