Orginally written for Passionforcinema.com. The article has been published here. I suggest you read the article at the link given because that one is a tad complete!
Watnabe knows he will die. Soon. But, it is not death that scares the wits out of him. It is life. His life. A lifetime of wasted opportunity. A life of failed expectaions would have been still better. His was a life of no expectations. A life wasted behind the pile of emotionless papers. He didn't miss even a single day of his office in the work span of 29 years, 11 months. Stamp after stamp after stamp after stamp after stamp after stamp...
A life that carried out recursive functions, without any goal and purpose in sight. A life that associated no joy or sorrow with the rising sun, with the star studded night, with anything. A life that was so listless, that it was not even life at all. These things come rushing back to him, when he is diagonised with stomach cancer and he knows, he only has half a year or year at maximum. To live.
Now, he desperately wants to cling on something. Anything. He doesn't know how. He wants to decorate his life in all the ways he possibly can. The miser even withdraws his hard earned 50,000 yen, because he wants to enjoy. At any cost. He goes places for seeking that elusive thing, happiness. No matter how transient or superfecial it may be. Places, he would have never even imagined going. Because, he hadn't given his life even a chance before. He had closed the doors to happiness ages ago, and when now life is actually closing door on him, he wants to sneak through and live it. Live it all. Like never before.
He meets the girl from his office who is a bundle of exuberance, and exudes contagious joy. Watnabe is both envious and happy to see her. She unconsciously leads Watnabe to discover himself, what he really wants to do the rest of his life. Of doing atleast one thing in his life he is proud of.
Kurosawa's sensitive lens meets Hashimoto's poignant story in this stunning movie. Such is Kurosawa's brilliance that he doesn't speak much, but even then he speaks volumes. I had merely heard about the art of silence, with Ikiru I have experienced it. Kurosawa's brilliance is not only mind numbing, it is also heart warming in the same breath. The penultimate shot shows Watnabe, hours before his death, on a swing, with a smile on his lips. Lively than ever before. The smile of a satisfied man. The satisfaction of having atleast lived a live. The satisfaction of him being able to provide something of value to others.
Because, that is what Ikiru is all about. It is not about death, it is not about questioning it's inevitability. It is about life. It is about having a purpose, it is about keeping the flame alive in our hearts. It is about the skip in our walk, it is about still being a kid at heart. It is about embracing those little things that we so forget in our busy, daily lives. It is about having a dream, and then doing anything to fulfill it.
Below is the lyrics of the song, that Watnabe sings during some of the scenes of the movie:
life is brief.
fall in love, maidens
before the crimson bloom
fades from your lips
before the tides of passion
cool within you,
for those of you
who know no tomorrow