Hara-Kiri (1962)

17th century Japan. A time of peace and feudalism. For samurai, this means that they’re out of a job. So when a wandering samurai played by Tatsuya Nakadai shows up at the gates of a respectable house, the clan that runs it are skeptical. They’ve seen this before. A masterless samurai asking permission to commit seppuku (ritualistic suicide) on their estate may seem honorable, but men in the past have done so simply to incur favor or at least a handout, with no actual intention of carrying the deed out. So they tell this stranger a story. They tell him what happened to the last visitor who tried this ploy. They made him carry out the seppuku with the dishonorable sword he brought (made of bamboo), and their side of his story is shown to us in gruesome detail. Seppuku, the act of disemboweling yourself before an aid finally beheads you, is done in this scene with a dull bamboo sword by a young man in a crowd of jeering peers. It’s so incredibly brutal. With very little detail actually shown on camera, master filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi sets the stage for the drama that slowly unwinds. Little by little, we find out what’s really going on, and we become more angry as the film goes on. By the film’s end, our perception of this scene is completely different than when first viewed at the beginning.

-Walter Howard-

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