Ikiru (1952)

5 Stars

Ikiru (1952)

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A council worker who goes through the humdrum of life decides to make a change when he is diagnosed with cancer.


Ikiru, as is nicely pointed out in the subtitles, is the word for "Living" in Japanese and is one of the most apt and intelligent titles on Empire's 5-star list.

The film starts its first act with Mr. Watanabe, a council worker who lives up to every modern perception of public office possible. He spends his life aimlessly pushing papers across the desk while the council itself sends the community around the merry-go-round of its departments in a clear lack of efficiency.

It pointedly and unreservedly pokes fun at modern life - even relevant now 50 years later. During this part of the film, you could be forgiven for taking a long hard look at your own life and wanting to turn off in favour of something that doesn't hit so close to home.

Stay with the film though and you are "rewarded" with Watanabe's misfortune. As he is diagnosed with a terminal illness he single-handedly attempts to change the system, leading to a flashforward 12 Angry Men style showdown at his funeral as his contribution to society is debated.

Ikiru never loses focus of the moral picture it attempts to paint. At some point in our lives we seek direction or a kick that jolts us from an otherwise dull existence. It notes that we are all saving money for a rainy day, but what if that day never comes? It is clear that Mr. Watanabe's son is far more vigorous in his youth and sees the opportunity to spend his father's money in ways that his father never could.

Ikiru's rather morbid undertone occasionally veers towards depressing but, rather than making you feel desperately sorry for Mr. Watanabe, its poignancy makes you want to kick him into action with an element of hypocrisy, before reflecting on the comparisons with your own existence.

According to Empire, this is Steven Spielberg's favourite film... and Steven Spielberg is a very wise man.

Review by on . Film Rating: 5/5