Heljar Wilhelmsen’s review published on Letterboxd:
This movie has been apart of an ever growing watchlist for too long. Buried deep down within other period dramas and often overshadowed by Akira Kurosawa's work in the same time period with similar themes, I've missed out on this film on many occassions.
The tale is that of Hanshiro Tsugumo, a ronin, who wishes to perform harakiri on the grounds of the powerful Li-clan. Through flashbacks and a court rehearsal, a greater story is told and a greater picture of dishonor and tragedy is drawn. We are shown different sides of the bushido code and the struggles of being a samurai during a time where they aren't needed.
The cinematography is excellent. The use of flashbacks and PoV-filming made the story between Hanshiro Tsugumo and the Li-clan (mainly Saito) tense and dramatic. There's also a great deal of symbolism used through the film (like the empty suit of armor in the start of the movie and it's usage in later parts of the film).
Harakiri's strongest point to me was how the story showed different interpretations of the terms honor and disgrace. Especially how honor itself seems to be valued more than life itself. How it affected the life of a misfortunate family and how the same family got it's own revenge.
No film is without flaws, Harakiri is not exception. I felt like it simply dragged a bit too long and could have been shorter without missing important parts. Some parts during the later stage of the 1st half of the movie felt unecessary and It'd made the story lose some momentum that it had built up. With that said, the second half of the film was amazing. I also have to emphatize the ending, expertly done to finish a movie where many different themes and feelings are explored.
At last, for people that have taken an interest into the ways of the warriors and japanese history, Harakiri is the perfect movie. Although it falls short of the considerably longer epic Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, Harakiri stands in the end as one of the most heartbreaking and powerful movies that I believe the japanese cinema has to offer.