I recently watched Harakiri, a 1962 Japanese drama film by Masaki Kobayashi. I must admit that I was in a mindset that Japanese film means- Kurosawa, Mifune and Shimura. But Nakadai’s mighty performance in Harakiri proves that he is without any doubt one of best actors in the history of cinema. Unfortunately, he is so underrated!
Set in feudal Japan this film involves a masterless samurai presenting himself to a powerful clan and asking to commit Harikiri. However, through a series of beautifully knitted flashbacks, we realize that to die in honor is not his only motive. The events that follow are slap on the politics in a feudal system and the hypocrisy involved. Timeless, compelling, poetic, and tragic, the movie has one of the most pessimistic endings ever, which made me wonder how the history is made, how the historical events are interpreted and who decides what would be written in the chronicles. It redefines the word- ‘pride’!
Harakari is simultaneously a samurai and an anti-samurai film. The viewers are bound to look closer at the noble Samurai code of behavior and how its abuse impacts the fate of an individual and the society in general. The intense sword fights, the court scenes, the flashbacks, and the dutch angled close ups during the Harakiri ritual- it indeed is one of the most horrifying tales of human psyche ever told! This is one film that cuts open your bowels, pulls your soul out, and makes you stare it right in its face!