And “The Tunnel” where the ghosts of the men that the army commander has sent out to die haunt him. “You may think you were heroes, but you died like dogs”, he tells the still obedient ghosts.
He is chased by a barking dog with bombs strapped around it towards the end of the sequence. One wonders what personal aspect from Kurosawa’s life comes in in this sequence.
I personally liked the one based on Van Gogh’s painting “The Crows”- a self- portrait of the artist underlining his commitment to art. This one has some of the most ravishing moments in the movie- as the young man wades through some of Van Gogh’s paintings, I understand that this is where Spielberg’s special effects were used- to a most dramatic effect.
The opening scene is also reminiscent of the writer in Shyam Benegal’s Sooraj Ka Saatvaan Ghoda whose memory of his younger days is revived while looking at a painting .
In “Blizzard” it is the super human effort of a team of mountaineers who finally reach their camp after surviving a blizzard- again something that brings out the tenacity of purpose.
Mt Fuji in Red and The Weeping Demon bring out the horrors of a nuclear holocaust- it has to be remembered Kurosawa came from the only country that has experienced the devastation caused by two atomic bombs but also that the peace movement was a major involvement for many before the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.
“Village of the Watermills” is both a requiem to himself as well as a most enigmatic work in the film. If this is a dream that Kurasawa had when he was very old and approaching the end of his life, it is understandable since the sequence shows a blissful village untrampled by technology and where cows and horses are used in place of tractors and candles in place of electricity- “for people grow used to convenience”- an old, 103 year old man lectures to the young man who is passing by the village.
The work is engimatic because no such idyllic, self- contained village has ever existed, a village too has its social classes and its constant struggle with nature. Indeed, Kurasawa must have been aware of this contradiction- for the old man mentions in passing that no one actually lived in the village.
Before watching the movie, I was unsure how Kurosawa would handle a film in color, having been familiar with his work in black and white- and the least one can say is that he has handled it with the aplomb of the genius that he demonstrated in his black and white films. The painting- like frames rescue even the most dreary of the sequences from banality.
If more people had dreams like Akira Kurosawa- and made movies like he did, I would be glued to the cinema.
The Village of the Watermills Part I (from Youtube)
The Village of the Watermills Part II (from Youtube)