|Harakiri (1962) - Original Title: Seppuku - By Masaki Kobayashi|
Our Rating: 9.5
IMDb Ratings: 8.5
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, Shima Iwashita
Runtime: 133 min
Color: Black and White
Harakiri is a 1962 chanbara film directed by Japanese auteur Masaki Kobayashi. Harakiri stars Japanese movie icon Tatsuya Nakadai in the epic role of an enigmatic ronin, Hanshiro Tsugumo. Harakiri is Kobayashi’s follow up to his magnum opus, The Human Condition Trilogy: an epic WWII trilogy, also starring Tatsuya Nakadai. At the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, Harakiri won the Special Jury Prize along with Vojtech Jasny’s ‘When the Cat Comes’. According to the dictionary definition, Harakiri, also known as Seppuku, is a Japanese ritual suicide performed by disembowelment with a sword, formerly practiced by the samurai as an honorable alternative to disgrace under the code of Bushido. In other words, under the code of Bushido, if ever a samurai fails to uphold his honor he can only regain it by performing Harakiri. To complete the ghastly ritual of Harakiri, the performer is required to open up his abdomen using a sword, starting from left to right and then finishing from top to bottom. However, in order to curtail the sufferings of the performer, another swordsman, who is appointed as the second, decapitates the performer at the very moment the formality of the ritual is completed.
|Tatsuya Nakadia as Hanshiro Tsugumo in Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri|
The plot of Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri, based in the backdrop of 17th century Japan, revolves around an elderly ronin (an unemployed Samurai), Hanshiro Tsugumo who requests for a rendezvous with a feudal lord of Iyi Clan seeking his permission and a suitable place to commit Harakiri. With the intention of intimidating Hanshiro Tsugumo, the counselor of Iyi Clan narrates the story of a young ronin, Motome Chijiiwa who was manhandled by the samurai retainers of the house in order to make him fulfill his promise of committing Harakiri. Chijiiwa had hoped that his threat would be deemed an act of valor and that he would be rewarded accordingly by the lord of the house, but to his dismay he ended up becoming a hapless victim of his own misjudgment. What made matters worse for Chijiiwa was that, in his state of destitution, he had previously sold the steel blades of his sword and had surrogated them with blades made of bamboo. Unperturbed by Chijiiwa’s pitiful state, the retainers of the house forced him to commit Harakiri using the very sword, thus making the task unworthy as well as excruciatingly painful and difficult.
|Motome Chijiiwa arrives at the Feudal Lord's residence|
|Chijiiwa commits Harakiri using Bamboo-Bladed Sword|
Hanshiro Tsugumo, even after learning about the hapless fate of Motome Chijiiwa, remains absolutely undeterred. Before going deeper into the movie's plot it's important to understand that a samurai relied on the factory called ‘war’ to earn a livelihood. Unlike a civilian who thrives on peace to secure a living, a samurai made hay while basking in the glory of war. Unfortunately for him, the glory quickly faded away in the days of peace, for his services were rendered useless and his exploits were forgotten. Harakiri's plot is based in the early seventeenth century Japan when after years of unremitting war, peace had finally prevailed. During the time, the unemployment among the samurai was at its highest. In the movie, the house of Iyi, being one of the most powerful of the surviving clans, starts getting inundated with unsolicited requests from ronins seeking the permission to commit Harakiri—a mere display of bravado with the ulterior motive of getting rewarded by the master of the clan for their apparent display of courage and adherence to the Bushido ideals. Disconcerted by this shameless display of bravado, the manipulative elder of Iyi Clan decides to put an end to the importunate ways of the samurai by pledging to make an example of anyone who dare knock at their doorsteps. As just as it may sound, it clearly was too harsh a decision to make, for in those days there was no machinery to facilitate unemployment compensation to these hapless souls. Also, their stern stand overlooked the fact that no samurai would feign the desire to commit Harakiri until and unless he was left with no other choice.
|Hanshiro Tsugumo seeks permission to perform Harakiri|
|Harakiri: The Majestic White-Pebbled Courtyard|
|Harakiri: Hanshiro Tsugumo narrates his life's tale|
|Iyi Clan Elder Saito listens intently to Tsugumo's tale|
|Harakiri: Hanshiro Tsugomo Seizes Iyi Clan Idle|
|A Still from Akira Kuroasawa's The Hidden Fortress|
|A Still from Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha|
|A Still from Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon|
|Tatsuya Nakadai in Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri|
|Harakiri: The Operatic Duel|
|Harakiri: The B&W, Wide-Angled Cinematography|
|Tatsuya Nakadai as Lord Hidetora in Ran|
|Hanshiro Tsugomo commits Harakiri after destroying Iyi Clan Idle|
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For more information on the title, please click on the following links:
Harakiri: The Duel