Ikiru (1956)



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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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.
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Cowboy Pictures

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Takashi Shimura
as Kanji Wantanabe
Nobuo Kaneko
as Mitsuo Watanabe, Kanji's son
Seiji Miyaguchi
as Gang Boss
Minoru Chiaki
as Noguchi
Masao Shimizu
as Doctor
Daisuke Katô
as Gang Member
Kyoko Seki
as Kazue Watanabe, Mitsuo's wife
Makoto Kobori
as Kiighi Watanabe
Kumeko Urabe
as Tatsu Watanabe
Yunosuke Ito
as Novelist
Kin Sugai
as Housewife
Nobuo Nakamura
as Deputy Mayor
Eiko Miyoshi
as Housewife
Miki Odagiri
as Toyo Odagiri, employee
Yoshie Minami
as Hayoshi, the Maid
Fuyuki Murakami
as Newspaperman
as Intern
Yatsuko Tanami
as Hostess
Toranosuke Ogawa
as Park Section Chief
Ko Kimura
as Intern
Kasuo Abe
as City Assemblyman
Ichiro Chiba
as Policeman
Fumiko Homma
as Housewife
as Subordinate Clerk
as Assistant
Makoto Koburi
as Kiichi Watanabe
Kazao Abe
as City Assemblyman
Akira Tani
as Old Man in Bar
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Critic Reviews for Ikiru

All Critics (32) | 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.

Full Review… | April 8, 2016
New Yorker
Top Critic

Akira Kurosawa's greatest film.

Full Review… | April 27, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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

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

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

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
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.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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

September 25, 2003
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Ikiru


A special, bittersweet and sometimes surprisingly funny celebration of the act of living, beautifully directed and with a wonderful performance by Takashi Shimura as the 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

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