|I Live in Fear (1955)|
|Writers:||Shinobu Hashimoto, Fumio Hayasaka, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni|
|Starring:||Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Minoru Chiaki|
|The Plot: Dr. Harada (Takashi Shimura) is a dentist who volunteers for the local courts as a mediator on small matters between families. Although he seems to be inconvenienced by the position, he really enjoys being in the midst of the legal system. When he is called to another family-court dispute, he is introduced to Kiichi Nakajima (Toshiro Mifune), who is a very peculiar man. He has been called forward by his family who intend to prove him incompetent due to the outrageous ways that he intends to spend his fortune. He has developed an extreme case of anxiety due to a fear of pending nuclear war. He has built a nuclear bunker at this point, but his family is pushed to the point of outrage when they hear his latest plan: Nakajima fully intends to purchase a farm in Brazil, and then move his entire family onto the property. Knowing nothing of farming nor Brazil, his family is naturally hesitant. However, they also fear that their father will leave and take with him his fortune that they feel should be a part of their inheritance. Faced with this bizarre family crisis, Dr. Harada must deal with his own fear of nuclear destruction and toy with the idea that while maybe Nakajima is taking things to an extreme, perhaps he is also taking things to their next logical step.|
There’s something about the performances found in Kurosawa’s work that is both quaint and profound. It seems as if his actors all became masters of their mannerisms. I Live in Fear is a great example of this. Mifune is ideal in his role, but it is the small tiny movements and expressions that give his character the life that it does. In the mind’s eye of any potential viewer, I will guarantee that they will always picture Nakajima fanning himself off fervently with his tiny paper fan. The grimace that always seems to paint his demeanor, as well as the hunched over walk that he limps along with, are certainly every bit a part of what defines this character. While watching the movie I became infatuated with his expressions, as well as those coming from the rest of the cast. Sometimes the performances are made by the hand gestures and emoting within their scenes. Only two decades away from the introduction of sound in cinema, there was certainly a flair for the theatrical within Kurosawa’s work at this point. However, these performances aren’t hokey or over-the-top, instead they seem real. The way characters are blocked within shots and the investment that the actors have with their surroundings, these all become very obvious to the viewer. When it comes to performances, however, few could possibly think to overcome the delightfully brilliant (as well as outrageous) Toshiro Mifune. Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura is the more reigned-in of our lead characters, but he still manages to get a very convicted performance out of his character.
Although this is a film that was made in a time that was preparing for the Cold War, and had only recently seen the massive destruction that atomic power could unleash upon humanity, it still speaks volumes within modern society. Although there are very real threats that purvey our reality, the human experience is much more than just dealing with these issues that lay outside of our own grasp. With the advent of 24 hour news channels, and the growing popularity of conspiracy theories that tell us shadowy cabals of bankers are seeking to unleash a torrent of hellfire upon the earth, the importance of dealing with this intense sense of fear seems just as important within the modern context as it did during the fifties. Throughout the course of this film, Kurosawa introduces us to a number of characters, but none shine through as the example for which others should follow. Although this isn’t a movie that looks to create heroes or villains, there’s definitely no way anyone can be seen as being “right” within this situation. Mifune’s character is dominated by a irrational fear (in the sense that he worries over something that he cannot control), and his family are all looking at his money in fear that they won’t be able to take the inheritance. The character played by Takashi Shimura is perhaps the easiest to identify with, however. His character remains in the background throughout most of the film, but he is a honest man who understands where Nakajima is coming from. He realizes the threat of nuclear war, but throughout the movie he finds himself wrestling with his own lacking sense of urgency. These are not simple issues, but Kurosawa handles them deftly and plays his cards like a brilliant poker player. There are no simply answers given, but the audience is left to ponder many questions that they may not have had in the front of their mind.