Dramatically compelling and emotionally intense, Harakiri
is a certified classic of Japanese film, and a riveting study of samurai codes of honor. Unlike Kurosawa's rousing samurai epics, this is an uncompromisingly tragic tale, exposing the hypocrisy of 17th-century Japanese society with its story of a family destroyed by the cruelty of feudalism toward warriors in peacetime. The film is truly Shakespearean in its emotional scope, embodied by the unforgettable performance of Tatsuya Nakadai (star of Kurosawa's Ran
) as an elder warrior seeking revenge for the unnecessary seppuku
(ritual suicide) of his beloved son-in-law. Director Masaki Kobayashi begins at story's end, then recounts the narrative (adapted from a novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi) as told by Nakadai's character. The effect is almost unbearably suspenseful, leading to an explosive climax of supreme defiance and samurai swordplay, erupting from a battle of wills, called bluffs, and hotly defended honor. For connoisseurs of samurai action, Harakiri
is not to be missed. --Jeff Shannon
Following the collapse of his clan, an unemployed samurai (Ran’s Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to be allowed to commit ritual suicide on the property. Iyi’s clansmen, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for a new position, try to force his hand and get him to eviscerate himself—but they have underestimated his beliefs and his personal brand of honor. Winner of the 1963 Cannes Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, Harakiri, directed by Masaki Kobayashi (The Human Condition) is a fierce evocation of individual agency in the face of a corrupt and hypocritical system.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • Video introduction by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie • Excerpt from a rare Directors Guild of Japan video interview with director Masaki Kobayashi, moderated by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda • Video interviews with star Tatsuya Nakadai and screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto • Original theatrical trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Joan Mellen and a reprint of a 1972 interview by Mellen with Kobayashi