Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Waga seishun ni kuinashi
, . . Screenplay by , , . Cinematography by . Produced by Keiji Matsuzaki. Music by . Production Design by . Film Editing by Akira Kurosawa.
As Japan prepares to enter the war, academic freedom comes under attack and a prominent university professor is fired for opposing the fascism that he believes is leading Japan to international disaster. His daughter (played with her usual expert delicacy by) is friends with two students, one a deeply committed left-wing student who thinks very highly of her father, and the other a more moderate young man who is entering law school; as often happens with human erotic attraction, she falls in love with the more impractical of the two. He disappears for a number of years after his participation in protests gets him arrested, then she reconnects with him after his experiences have changed him and they move in together, she sacrificing her reputation to become his mistress and staying faithful despite finding out that he has gotten himself involved in some very dangerous, illegal activity and will need his romantic rival to help get him out of trouble. What eventually happens is a spiritual journey on the part of our heroine that sees her travel back to her lover’s home village and devote herself to an ideal for which she suffers, and what’s amazing about this early Akira Kurosawa drama, which he had the gumption to make so soon after the end of a war that did not go at all well for Japan, is that none of its themes are heavy or didactic and it is never for a moment preachy or insincere. It’s a film by a man who has seen his country suffer a great ordeal and has questions to ask about it, not fingers to point, done with the kind of humanist sensitivity that marks all his best films, but his skill with the technical aspects of filmmaking, particularly the beautiful cinematography and the sturdy performances, add substance to something so spiritually satisfying.