6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
When the Wheel of Fate Turns Against You.,
This review is from: Hara-Kiri : Death of a Samurai [DVD] (DVD)
Having just given poor old Takashi Miike a right good dissing, for his western parody nonsense, "Sukiyaki Western Django", which I am sure would have upset him no end! Ha ha hah, I will now redress the balance big time. Clearly Miike is better with home advantage and staying firmly rooted in Japanese history. This is a film that even Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi would have identified with, and maybe even liked. It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that is worth the telling. The film reminded me of a Thomas Hardy novel, and had me thinking stupidly that it might even be an adaption. It was in fact a re-imagining of Masaki Kobayashi's "Harakiri". Unlike all the glut of silly martial arts films we have had with heroes cutting through swathes of bad guys and flying through bamboo forests, this one is rooted firmly and sensibly in Japanese history. Not sure I like that word sensible! As a result it is like a breath of fresh air and is a strong reminder of the masters of Japanese cinema. This is what we want to see.
The story concerns a Samurai who is down on his luck, and discovers the fate of his Ronin son in law. This sets a chain of events in motion from which there is no turning back. The film debunks all the mystique surrounding mans reverence of honour, particularly the more strict Japanese code. Here honour is mocked, and all men can see that they might suffer a sad fate if the wheel of fortune turns against them. Miike seems to be citing the Elizabethan poet John Donne who said "no man was an island entire of itself". Indeed we are all part of humanity and the roll of the dice can turn against us. What happens to one can happen to another. Decent men will sacrifice their lives all for the sake of love. The film is well acted by all, and has many memorable scenes. The wooden samurai sword is emblemic in the film, and I will not spoil your enjoyment by recalling two immensely powerful scenes. These are themes worthy to be scrutinised by the cameras lens. The film is beautiful to look at and meditative in tone. It is elegant, thoughtful and a film that confirms Miike as a legendary film maker. Like a great director Miike offers no easy answers at the films conclusion. It is for you the viewer to meditate on and come to your own conclusions. One of the few truly great films to come out in recent years. Does that redress the balance Takashi?