Harakiri ★★★★★

When I take a look at the list of films I've already seen this year (not as many as I would've liked to), I see, amongst some rubbish, a couple of good and even some great films - worthy of a Top10 list at the end of the year.

Before that year is over a lot more should join these (at least I hope they will!), so creating such a list will probably present me with some difficulties. But one thing I know without a shred of doubt: Harakiri will make that list. With ease. It certainly is the best film I have watched since the turn of the year, and right now I can't imagine it to be topped anytime soon.

Much can be read about the deconstruction of the now-mythical concept of Bushido that director Kobayashi Masaki attempts and achieves with Harakiri, but that description sounds far too clinical for a film as powerful and moving as this.

As the story slowly unravels and we get to know the unfortunate fates of the protagonists - always embedded in the greater social and political struggles that arise when a large number of people suddenly lose the means to provide for themselves and their loved ones - the watcher can't help but sit motionless and be mesmerized.

The patient watcher at least: Harakiri is a slow film, it takes it's time building up the story, especially after the exposition. Additionally, some scenes are truly painful to watch - but the payoff at the end is worth it. Not in terms of action and body count (although there is some action at the end), but more of in terms of classic catharsis.

The direction is masterful but not intrusive, it never overshadows the story or the actors. Of those, Tatsuya Nakadai and Rentarō Mikuni deserve special recognition as the man (ostensibly) seeking a place to commit the titular Harakiri and as the counselor of the house he approaches.


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