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  • The Idiot - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1951]
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The Idiot - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1951]

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Product details

  • Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Setsuko Hara, Masayuki Mori, Yoshiko Kuga
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Eureka
  • DVD Release Date: 14 Nov. 2005
  • Run Time: 166 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007Z0VXE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,741 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Akira Kurosawa's The Idiot, his only adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel, was a cherished project on which it is claimed he expended more effort than on any other film. A darkly ambitious exploration of the depths of human emotion, it combines the talents of two of the greatest Japanese actors of their generation — Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) and Setsuko Hara (Tokyo Story, Late Spring). The Idiot is perhaps the most contemplative of all Kurosawa's works, a tone which is heightened by the unusual, trance-like performances. Kurosawa's electrifying dramatisation uproots the novel's Russian Summer setting to a memorable, snowbound Hokkaido — the northern-most island of Japan, closest to Russia in climate and custom. War criminal Kameda (Masayuki Mori), reprieved from a death sentence, is fresh out of the asylum, mentally fragile, and prone to epileptic fits. In turn, his emotional involvement with two women (Setsuko Hara and Yoshiko Kuga) and his new, increasingly volatile friend Akama (Toshiro Mifune) leads further into madness and gross tragedy.

From the Back Cover

Filmed between Rashomon and Ikiru, Kurosawa poured himself into faithfully capturing the essence of his favourite author's work — only to see it butchered by the studio. Never at all released in its original 266-minute form, the original Kurosawa edit was only ever shown once at the Japanese premiere and then re-edited by the studio prior to the official Japanese release the following week. In spite of Kurosawa's own efforts to locate the original version in the studio's vaults forty years later, his cut is now sadly considered lost. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the longest extant version of this rarely seen film: the original 166-minute domestic release, as presented to the Japanese public in 1951.

"Of all my films, people wrote to me most about this one... ...I had wanted to make The Idiot long before Rashomon. Since I was little I've liked Russian literature, but I find that I like Dostoevsky the best and had long thought that this book would make a wonderful film. He is still my favourite author, and he is the one — I still think — who writes most honestly about human existence." - AKIRA KUROSAWA

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MLindsay89 on 4 May 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a very different film from most of Kurosawa's work. The thing I noticed first was how long each of the scenes were, sometimes more than ten minutes can pass in a single conversation between two people. I liked this because it let me get to know the characters better and gave the actor's a chance to shine. Toshiro Mifune once again is brilliant but his role is more secondary although he is given some excellent scenes. The best part of the film is the performance of Masayuki Mori who plays the main character - The Idiot - his performance is extraordinary. His character is a total contrast to nearly everyone else who at different times display selfishness and a meanness that he simply doesn't posses.

Of those long scenes there are some which are just fantastic to watch, especially when the normally quiet title character opens up to let someone or some people know what and how he feels. You cant help but feel for him and it's these moment's that make the film so good.

In films such as "I live In Fear" and "Stray Dog" Kurosawa creates a fantastic atmosphere of heat, through the characters you can feel how hot it is and that feeling sticks with you throughout the movie. With The Idiot it is a little different, the whole movie has a feeling of cold, freezing even. In that way it stand's out from many of his other film's. This was filmed in the very North of Japan with the closest climate to that of Russia where the novel the film is adapted from was based.

The film has been dramatically cut from 266 minutes down to 166 minutes, unfortunately this was done before the film was released by the studio and it is really evident in some scenes.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Nim on 7 Mar. 2012
Format: DVD
After reading 'The Idiot' by Dostoyevsky, which is a fantastic book by the way, I wouldn't say his best but extremely thought provoking, I realised that Kurosawa filmed an adaptation to the novel.
Being a great fan of Dostoyevsky and Kurosawa, I knew I had to watch it after reading the book.

The movie had to be cut by 120 minutes or so (don't know exact time cut) and is apparently lost forever which is unfortunate.
After watching the movie, I certainly felt that Kurosawa did do a fantastic job in portraying the emotions and mental states of the characters.
But after reading the book, you'll realise that there is a lot that is missing in the story.

Its sad that the missing scenes are lost, and I have no doubt the movie would of been a lot better given that they were available to the audiences today.

Kurosawa has done a good job with the film. I can say that Kurosawa has been faithful to Dostoyevsky and depicts the novel extremely well.
I'm just annoyed that there are parts missing in the film.
I would recommend this movie only for Kurosawa fans and also Dostoyevsky fans too.

If you are a regular person interested in Kurosawa's works, don't start off with this one.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Buyer on 11 Sept. 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is quite good, faithful to the original story (although the setting is moved from Russia to Japan).
Unfortunately 1 hour of footage is considered lost, so I wonder what the director's cut would have been like? At well over two hours I guess its long enough anyway for most people's attention spans...
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By pingpong on 13 Dec. 2008
Format: DVD
Although I agree with other reviewer that this is faithful adaptation the sound quality is pretty appalling. There is a delay in the actors mouths moving to the sound! I may have had a bad copy/
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
How To See Beauty 5 Jan. 2006
By Samurai Girl - Published on
In 1951 the Shochiku film studio released Akira Kurosawa's adaptation of Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" in a much-cut and rather mangled form. It flopped, and when Shockiku insisted the film be cut it again...Kurosawa said, "Next time cut it down the middle...lengthwise!" In other words, cutting would destroy the film. Anyway, the original Kurosawa-cut version was lost, and what remains is this much-pared-down version....

And, somehow, like a damaged soul, it is unbelievably affecting. It is a film that shows great nobility of spirit, contrasted against the tragic consequences of one's choices and actions based on fear, loathing, avarice, hate, and yes, love.

What a strange film! Kurosawa chose Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's islands, and the most European-like. The houses look like European houses, and the weather! Snow covers the windowsills and blows in from open doors. What a desolate and deeply affecting visual...the windows with crescents of snow, while inside, near a stove, the tragic human dramas unfold.

Utterly fascinating. I cannot tell you how lovely and strange and disturbing a film this is! Maybe that overlay of Christianity, transplanted to Buddhism, is able to take the Christ-like central "Prince Myishkin" figure into a new realm of possibility of meaning: a universal secular application of the principle of loving one another.

Suddenly, in this film, everything is re-made: new and at the same time resonant of our own shared histories.

I have a memory of being in the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersberg and seeing a cell, and being told that Dostoevsky had been imprisoned, brought before a firing squad, blindfolded, the shots rang out...but the whole thing had been a cruel joke..they had not shot the novelist, he had been reprieved.

I know that Dostoevsky lived in St. Peteresberg, and I know that he had been in the army, and that he suffered from epilepsy and this reprieve from death, well, it would be pretty much the history (or to use film lingo, "backstory") of the central character in "The Idiot".

The acting is the kind of heated, overwrought acting you might expect in a silent film (and this is not to belittle the acting..! A silent film must communicate visually, and here, Kurosawa does the nearly impossible: allows us to enter into the pained and tortured souls of the characters through their eyes and how they hold their bodies, how they react to one another. These are people at the edge of sanity, desperate and full of self-loathing and fear. Their passions, even, are a source of pain. And, you will feel it, viscerally!).

Setsuko Hara is amazing. You will never see her like this in an Ozu film! Imperious, tortured.

Despite some awareness that the film was damaged and incomplete

(according to Kurosawa's original vision), and despite a disagreeable

encounter with the initial scenes where there are abrupt cuts, intertitles as elipses for lost footage, and some jumpy discontinuity-I attribute most of this to Shochiku's insistence on paring down of the film for time, and find, that, by the second half of the film, I've been won over, completely, and haunted and deeply moved.

In comparing this with another Kurosawa adaption of a Russian author;

Gorky's "The Lower Depths", one is immediately aware of the different

approach, and the masterful handling of the latter is so easeful and sure. In comparison, "The Idiot" is flawed, difficult.

But, for all it's flaws, I found "The Idiot" to be one of the best films I have ever seen!

Masayuki Mori, as the Prince Myishkin character (Kameda in the film) is deeply affecting. It is the surprise of his sudden smile, coming like sun on snow, or a light in a dark room, of his humility when he's said something painfully honest that shocks everyone, and he puts his hands to his head and apologizes..he is "damaged", and meant no harm by his words. In the scene where he takes the now-mad Toshiro Mifune's head in his hands (Mifune plays Akama..the Rogozhin character from the novel) his hands, even, seem to be imbued with a gentle love. By that point in the film, though, I completely believe in him! So beautiful, those deep, pained and loving eyes!

Setusko Hara, as Taeko (the Nastasya character in the novel) is utterly unlike anything we've seen in Ozu! You know, every short synopsis of the novel mentions the character as capricious...but, here, in this film, it so much more!!! We feel her motivations, her pain, her fury and desperation. We especially feel her pain through Mori's eyes. When she is at the point of tears, forcing Mori to choose her over another...there is an electricity...she holds her head back proudly, trying not to cry...imperiously raising her hand and telling Mori he must choose her and abandon his other love...and there is so much tension, everyone is at the breaking point, and it is truly her face, at this moment that terrifies! I have never seen her so desperate and in such pain! She is magnificent, heartbreaking.

Takashi Shimura is here, and it's always good to see him! Bokuzen Hidari, with a "Hitler-esque" moustache is here...being funny, as usual...the mom from "Tokyo Story" is here-her solid frame, those wonderful eyes (she feels like a family friend, doesn't she? Everyone has an aunt or mom or relative like her), and good 'old Minoru Chiaki, playing an uncharacteristically crummy guy (he's usually loveable in most of his roles).

This film has suffered from a bad rap. If you really love film, this is brilliant, so see it without prejuduice, forget what anyone might have told you about it, just remember the ways in which films are different from books, and remember that Kurosawa loved the book deeply, and trust him-he was even a better director than you thought he was.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great for Kurosawa fans but not the best intro to his work. 5 Jan. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
I am a Kurosawa fan and enjoyed it very much. It starts out a little uneven, and in fact had to rewind at the beginning to double-check character names and some confusing plot explanation in the subtitles (but not as confusing as Dostoyevsky's character names!). After this however, I thought it was very good. There are also some interesting scenes in which new western influence on post-war Japan is seen (though this has nothing to do with plot). I recommend it highly, although non-fans may find it a little long. The Maltin review mentioned that it wasn't edited per Kurosawa's wishes and it shows, but a good movie and still has many Kurosawa 'trademark' shots and touches.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Still Crying... 20 July 2005
By Marye Eveland - Published on
I would never critique Kurosawa and I would never take a pass on any of his films. This movie's not perfect, but how could you ever give him less than 5 stars? Either you want to see every Kurosawa film ever made or you don't want to see any.

This was beautiful, sad, and terrifying. I'd love to see it as originally shot. This was my first of his "modern" films. How exciting to see other actors I'd only seen in Ozu films-it made me appreciate them even more. See it if you get the chance!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
To say always the truth is hazardous, because will always hurt somebody! 10 Mar. 2007
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on
The profound gaze of Akira Kurosawa about a simple man, naïve and idiot, considered by the doctors as a dement epileptic, will face the world with his only weapon; the truth and nothing more the truth. But as you know, in this world of wolves, you must sleep with an eye open and just a few persons are capable to accept the awful truth that can make you blind.

This powerful dramatis personae will involve two women who will love him from different perspectives. Inspired in the famous work of Dostoievsky, this another great gem of this master filmmaker.

Watch it and you will experience the crude reality of the madness and feel what it means to be just in the razor's edge.

Extraordinary and one of my top one hundred desert island films.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, Beautiful and Sad 29 Nov. 2003
By DAVID DAHL - Published on
Verified Purchase
To me this film only used the framework of Doestoevsky's tale. Instead to me it shows the tragedy of postwar Japan. My favorite moment is when Kameda and Akama walk through the streets of
Hokkaido and they see the image of Taeko Nasu and Kurosawa makes the portrait our focus and the two men are merely the reflections in the glass. It foreshadows the pending tragedy beautifully. The music in the background is haunting and it too captures the sadness of all three of the characters.
I loved Doestoevsky's novel, but to me this film brought it to life. Made it accessable and ultimately painful because as the film moves on I came to love Kameda in a way I couldn't with Prince Myshkin.
I am sad this film is out of print I would love to get this on DVD.
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