Ikiru (1956)

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Critic Consensus: Ikiru is a well-acted and deeply moving humanist tale about a man facing his own mortality, one of legendary director Akira Kurosawa's most intimate films.

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Movie Info

Akira Kurosawa's drama stars Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe, a government clerk who learns he has only months to live. Fearing his life may amount to nothing, he decides to turn his back on his rigid routines in order to search for the meaning of existence.

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Cast

Takashi Shimura
as Kanji Wantanabe
Miki Odagiri
as Toyo Odagiri, employee
Nobuo Kaneko
as Mitsuo Watanabe, Kanji's son
Kyoko Seki
as Kazue Watanabe, Mitsuo's wife
Makoto Kobori
as Kiighi Watanabe
Kasuo Abe
as City Assemblyman
Kumeko Urabe
as Tatsu Watanabe
Saito
as Subordinate Clerk
Yoshie Minami
as Hayoshi, the Maid
Sakai
as Assistant
Nobuo Nakamura
as Deputy Mayor
Kazao Abe
as City Assemblyman
Yunosuke Ito
as Novelist
Ko Kimura
as Intern
K.O.
as Intern
Seiji Miyaguchi
as Gang Boss
Fuyuki Murakami
as Newspaperman
Daisuke Katô
as Gang Member
Ichiro Chiba
as Policeman
Toranosuke Ogawa
as Park Section Chief
Akira Tani
as Old Man in Bar
Kin Sugai
as Housewife
Eiko Miyoshi
as Housewife
Fumiko Homma
as Housewife
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News & Interviews for Ikiru

Critic Reviews for Ikiru

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (11)

Kurosawa achieves the piercing emotion and poetry of the Italian neorealists, but by opposite means: he doesn't make the camera disappear; instead... he deploys his camera so sharply and unerringly that it seems to take X-rays of the spirit.

Apr 8, 2016 | Full Review…

Akira Kurosawa's greatest film.

Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…

A masterwork of burning social conscience and hard-eyed psychological realism.

Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Kurosawa performs a tour-de-force in keeping a dramatic thread throughout and avoiding the mawkish.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

Kurosawa's eclectic style is a delight: his striking, varied compositions reflecting the old man's journey from darkness to some kind of light right until the moving finale.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

If you have never seen it, you should. If you have seen it before, your admiration will only increase.

Sep 25, 2003 | Rating: 4/4

Audience Reviews for Ikiru

½

A special, bittersweet and sometimes surprisingly funny celebration of the act of living, beautifully directed and with a wonderful performance by Takashi Shimura as an awkward old protagonist who should inspire us all to reconsider the way we have been living our lives.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A well crafted film with a heartfelt story that is poignant, deep, this masterpiece of a film laments life's biggest truths about our own measly, mortal existence. I haven't seen a modern movie quite like it. Ikiru is a brilliant film because of the ingenious cinematography, one would certainly agree to such; that it concerns us, because the problems faced are very real and speaks of truth, however sad(or liberating) as one may see fit. Ultimately, it works because it succeeds in doling out quintessential truths about our humanity, of our very lives.

Adriel Lim
Adriel Lim

Super Reviewer

After being lied to by his doctor, a bureaucrat discovers that he has inoperable stomach cancer, and he searches hedonism, a co-worker, and his work for fulfillment before he meets his end. This film is simply marvelous. The performance by Takashi Shimura as the dying man is remarkable for his quiet sadness and determination. The scenes in which he sings on the swing and in the bar are nearly magical in their ability to draw the audience in to Watanabe's mental state. His outbursts to Toyo are passionate and riveting. Kurosawa's direction is at top form. I think my favorite shot is the foregrounding of the dying man and his co-worker at a restaurant while in the background there is a joyous birthday celebration. It is pure visual poetry, as the background action carries on, each of its participants doomed to one day be in the foreground. What is Kurosawa saying with this film? It can't simply be reduced to another "carpe diem" anthem, though there are elements of this. Rather, I think Kurosawa realizes that we've all heard "carpe diem" before, but the tragedy of life is that we fail to recognize its exigence until it's too late. We see this both in Watanabe's reaction to his impending death and the wake scene in the third act. Overall, this is undoubtedly Kurosawa's best film, focusing on the frailty of the human condition and the temporal limitations of life.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Films don't come much better than this. Ikiru, which means "To Live" in Japanese, is the story of a city employee who after 30 years on the job, never having missed a day of work, finds out he has cancer and has less than a year to live. As he starts to evaluate his life, he realizes that he didn't have one. Not only had he never had any fun in his life -- he's even accused of being miserly several times -- he doesn't even know HOW to have fun. His entire time on earth was just a prologue to his death. After much soul-searching, he discovers he can make a contribution and end his life with some kind of accomplishment uder his belt.
Takeshi Shimura, who was a staple of director Akira Kurosawa's earlier films, gives a heartbreaking performance as Mr. Watanabe. A memorable scene is when Watanabe is in a bar and begins to sing a song that begins "Life is brief". The camera pans in for a close-up and tears well up in his eyes and roll down his face as he sings. You realize that he never gave that phrase a second thought until that very moment. After just one viewing of this film, I can place Shimura's performance in my top favorites of all-time.
If it's possible for a film to change people's lives, this one could do it. High schools should make Ikiru required viewing for graduation. Even if it saved one person from wasting his or her life, it would be worth it.

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

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