A middle-aged bureaucrat discovers he has terminal cancer and determines to do something useful with the remainder of his life. Kurosawa’s most humanistic and ironic film.

The international success of Rashomon gave Kurosawa more creative freedom and he used this to make one of his finest films, Ikiru, which is translated variously as Living and Doomed. It’s the story of office worker Kenji Watanabe, superbly played by Takashi Shimura, an actor in almost every Kurosawa film who rarely played a leading role. This ‘ordinary’ bureaucrat, in late middle age, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the news leads him to re-assess his life, and his determination to achieve something worthwhile before he dies. Living is one of Kurosawa’s most humanistic films, but also one of his most ironic, which the later sequences indicate.

The director said that the film was inspired by thoughts of his own death and of the legacy he would leave behind him. The most important aspect of the film lies in the fact that we do not see ourselves as others see us, so Watanabe’s aspirations are misconstrued, or simply unappreciated, by his colleagues. It’s a film that can be interpreted in more than one way, and in that sense it can be compared to Rashomon, though in every other respect these two great films of the early ’50s could hardly be more different. 

- David Stratton

A special discount package of all ten films in the retrospective is available for $130 + booking fee. Click here to book the Essential Kurosawa: Selected by David Stratton package.

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Ferve Tickets

Akira Kurosawa


143 mins

Japanese with English subtitles




Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni

Sojiro Motoki

Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Kyoko Seki

Rights: Toho Co., Ltd. | Print Source: The Japan Foundation.
© 1952 Toho Co., Ltd.