Friday, February 10, 2012

#543. Rhapsody in August (1991)

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 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 can Kane bring herself to 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 encouraged 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 inward for a solution to this dilemma. 

With Rhapsody in August, director Akira Kurosawa addresses one of the most troubling of human characteristics: ignoring the events of the past, regardless of 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 the history books). To them, the prospect of visiting America is an attractive one, and they can't understand why Kane doesn't jump at this opportunity. 

It isn't until the four youngsters make 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. As the others listen intently, Tami tells of 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 made most of her hair to fall out. 

The four visit the site where their grandfather's 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 just before the blast 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, all at once, become very real for them. 

And for us as well.


Klaus said...

This is the most recent of 25+ Kurosawa films which I've watched over the last year, and is one of my favorites.

DVD Infatuation said...

Klaus: Yeah, I really enjoyed this film. It took me by surprise.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a good one!