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, unemployed samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to commit ritual suicide on his property. Iyi's clans men, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for charity, try to force him to eviscerate himself - but they have underestimated his honor and his past. Winner of the 1963 Cannes Film Festival's Special Jury Prize, Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri is a scathing denouncement of feudal authority and hypocrisy.