The Cinema Cafe

Serving Cinema's Tastiest Treasures

Capturing a Golden Moment #14: Ikiru

In this series I'd like to present some exceptional scenes inspired by cinema's most gifted artists of yesteryear.


Ikiru (1952)

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Scene: "The Finale"


*Note: My approach to describing the following scene will be different than the preceding entries in this series. The dramatic effect of Ikiru's final moments is not as self contained as its predecessors and is cumulative in nature, relying on the narrative strength of what has come beforehand. I would therefore request that these moments be respectfully observed by those who have seen the entire film. Otherwise it would be like reading only the last pages of a literary masterpiece. Please pardon my reverential attitude here, but I consider this film to be cinema's finest, most spiritually profound work of art.  

This final scene concerns one of the office workers. After expressing silent outrage at his bureaucratic colleagues returning to their former ineffectiveness, he's stared down by his superior and reluctantly retreats behind a mountain of paperwork. At the end of the day he looks down from an overpass at some children joyfully using the playground his deceased former colleague Watanabe, with great effort and perseverance, created. (Previously celebrating his glorious accomplishment, Watanabe sat on the playground's swing in the night's freezing cold, singing a most poignant song). Two children abandon the swing, the seats of which are empty; the shot is held there as they gently sway back and forth. The song's tune is heard on the soundtrack. Is this meant as a symbolic invitation for us to fill the empty spaces and become "creators" ourselves? The figure stares down at the park before finally walking off. As he walks across the bridge from above, notice how the filmmakers ingeniously capture him if only for a few seconds, in a pyramid shape of the swing structure, the chains of which can still be seen swaying. And as he walks out of this framing device and then leaves the scene completely, is he representative of time that passes regardless of how we choose to live our lives, suggesting the fleeting nature of man’s opportunity to give unto others? Watanabe is gone but his creation, his spiritual inspiration, endures. Its meaning however, and perhaps more importantly what will be done about it, is left up to us.




Ikiru is available on Blu-ray (North America Region A locked) here:

Ikiru (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Starring Takashi Shimura

It is also available for U.S. download here:

Starring Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Kyoko Seki, Makoto Kobori, Kumeko Urabe