Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Sachiko Murase, Richard Gere, Hisashi Igawa
Trivia: This film premiered at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival
Kane (Sachiko Murase), an elderly grandmother living on a small farm just outside Nagasaki, is playing host to her four grandchildren, who are spending the entire summer with her. One day, Kane receives word that her older brother, who'd moved to Hawaii several years before the outbreak of World War II, is dying, and wishes to see her one more time. Kane wants to honor her brother's request, but the memories of the atomic bombing in 1945, which claimed the lives of some 80,000 people, including her husband, remain fresh in her mind. How could she possibly visit the country responsible for such devastation? Her nephew, Clark (Richard Gere), arrives from America to escort Kane to the United States, yet despite being urged by her grandchildren to make the trip, she remains undecided. Torn between her obligations to her brother and her unresolved issues with Americans, Kane searches for a solution to this dilemma.
With Rhapsody in August, director Akira Kurosawa addresses one of the most troubling of human characteristics: overlooking the events of the past, no matter how terrible they might have been. This is brought to the forefront through Kane's grandchildren, all of whom were born well after the war had ended. Being young, they obviously have no memory of what happened in the nearby city of Nagasaki, and know nothing of the bombing save what they've learned from stories and history books. To them, the prospect of visiting America is an attractive one, and they can't understand why Kane doesn't jump at the opportunity. It isn't until the four take a trip into Nagasaki that the reality of what occurred there starts to sink in. Tami (Tomoko Otakara), the eldest, tells the other three the story of their grandfather, and how the school he taught at was very close to where the bomb hit. She tells how their grandmother, who was safe at home, shielded behind a tall mountain, traveled to Nagasaki that very evening to try and locate her husband, which resulted in radiation poisoning that caused most of her hair to fall out. The four visit the site where the school once stood, which is now nothing but an empty lot. Yet a single monument to the devastation remains; a twisted mound of metal, which at one time had been a set of playground monkey bars. Staring at this remnant of a horrific event, they begin to understand their grandmother’s apprehensions. The tragedy of that day has suddenly become very real for them.
And for us as well.