Friday, 6 September 2013
Hara-Kiri (4 Stars)
My regular readers might remember my review of "Silver" in May. Those who don't can read it now. I complained about Takashi Miike's films. Everyone tells me how great he is and I really must watch his films, so I do, and I'm disappointed every time. Most people who like Japanese films name him first, even though Sion Sono is far more skilled as a director, making films with deeper meanings and more interesting characters. I don't even know why I decided to watch "Hara-Kiri" today. But I did, and I'm glad. Finally I've found a film by Takashi Miike that I like!
This film is a contrast to Takashi Miike's previous film, "13 Assassins". That film showed how honorable it is to be a samurai, especially in days when honour is no longer valued. This film suggests that samurai honour is a farce, something that people of the samurai caste hold to out of principle, even though it has no meaning.
Motome is a young man who is born into a samurai family in the early 17th Century. It's a time of peace, and although he is given a sword he never uses it. He becomes a peaceful scholar and teacher. When his wife and son become ill he doesn't have enough money to pay for a doctor. He hears that other samurai have made money from "suicide bluffs". They go to a rich lord and ask for permission to commit suicide in their courtyard, even though they have no intention of killing themselves. They hope the lord will talk them out of it and give a small amount of money out of charity. Motome goes to the estate of the Ii clan to carry out a suicide bluff, but it doesn't turn out as he expects.
This is a very different film to what I have previously seen from Takashi Miike. There is very little violence, and an absence of the gore that he uses in films like "Ichi the Killer". On the one hand it's a love story, the story of Motome and his wife Miho. On the other hand it's a philosophical film, with extended discussions on the values of life as a samurai. This is a beautiful film, and I admit I had tears in my eyes towards the end. Maybe I should check out more films by Takashi Miike. Maybe.