tragic Japanese films have
much more to offer than an excuse
for a good weep a fine example is Kokoro, a film by the respected Kon
Ichikawa, filmed in 1955 in black-and-
white and now available on DVD... GIVEN THE MERIT OF JAPANESE FILMS whether vintage or modern
we couldn't wait to review Kon Ichikawa's Kokoro,
filmed in the middle of the last century and following the traditional and emotive
storylines of Japanese literature.
Brimful of brooding psychological angst, Kokoro is vintage Kon Ichikawa (An
Actor's Revenge, The Burmese Harp, Tokyo Olympiad) and is based on a novel
written in 1914 by celebrated Japanese author Natsume Soseki, who is widely
considered the foremost author of the Meiji Era (1868-1912).
The director foregrounds Kokoro's themes of isolation and social estrangement;
most notably in a central protagonist stricken by existential demons and stranded
by changing times. This is 1912, the 45th Year of the Meiji Era and the Emperor
is ill and not expected to live for much longer.
From the moment Nobuchi (Masayuki Mori) and his wife Shizu (Michiyo Aratama)
appear, it is obvious that things are not good between them. They live in Tokyo
and have been married for thirteen years, but Shizu believes that her husband
does not want to be seen with her he never wants her to accompany him
when he goes once a month to the grave of his close friend Kaji (Tatsuya Mihashi),
who died in 1897 while they were still students. She has come to be suspicious
and believes another woman is involved, distraught that he refuses to speak
to her of Kaji.
Into their lives at an opportune moment comes 23-year-old University student
Hioki (Shoji Yasui), who sees Nobuchi as a sensei, a mentor, and the
two develop a mutually respectful friendship. Nobuchi begins to confide in the
younger man but will not yet discuss his torment over Kaji who was following
a spiritual path and died suddenly before his graduation.
When Hioki asks why he treats his wife so badly, Nobuchi tells the student that
he cares greatly for his wife and they should be the happiest couple in the
world. Nobuchi was tricked out of his inheritance by his uncle and, as a result,
there are few people he trusts. He has intentionally set himself apart from
Nobuchi regrets arguing with his wife but cannot bring himself to explain the
terrible events around Kaji's death and the guilt he carries with him. Shizu
was his landlady's daughter and she recalls his happiness in his student days.
When she voices her regret about having no children, Nobuchi says it is "divine
What is the dreadful secret of a selfish act that Nobuchi is hiding from his
wife that causes his soul to be so tortured; and why does he insist on visiting
Kaji's grave alone? What makes Nobuchi believe love is a sin? And does Nobuchi's
friendship with Hioki relate somehow to his life with Kaji? As the Meiji Era
draws to a close with the Emperor's death and the suicide of General Nogi, a
fateful tale of tainted love, failed friendship and redemptive honour unravels
with tragic consequences.
Kokoro is Produced by Takagi Masayuki; Directed by Kon Ichikawa; Screenplay
by Inomata Katsuhito and Hasebe Keiji; Cinematography by Ito Takeo; Art Direction
by Koike Kazumi; and the dramatic Music is by Oki Masao. The film also features;
Kitabayashi Tanie as Hioki's Mother; Tamura Akiko as Shizu's Mother; Tsurumaru
Mutsuhiko as Hioki's Father; Shimomoto Tsutomu as Hioki's Brother; Shimojo Masami
as the Employment Agent and Naraoka Tomoko as the maid, Kume. Finely acted and
poignantly driven, Kokoro is beautifully filmed in black-and-white and
tells the story of the folly of envy.
With the current attraction to Nichiren Buddhism [Nichiren-kei sho shuha
is a branch of Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th century Japanese
monk Nichiren (1222-1282)], it is interesting to note the scene with Nobuchi
and Kaji meeting a Nichiren Buddhist Priest, who is on his way to the Tanjo
Temple at Kominato, the birthplace of Nichiren who was renowned for his
beautiful calligraphy. The day he was born, two sacred sea bream were landed
on the beach there now called Sea-Bream Beach.
Award-winning Japanese director Kon Ichikawa sadly passed away in February,
2008. Kokoro is part of a planned trio of his films in the Masters of
Cinema Series the other two are Alone Across The Pacific and The
Although sometimes overlooked in the director's
impressive oeuvre, Kon Ichikawa's profoundly beautiful rendering of Soseki's
novel is a considerable work of cinema in its own right. The Masters of Cinema
Series is proud to present Kokoro for home viewing in the UK for the
very first time in any video format. The DVD is released on 23 February, 2009.
Catalogue No: EKA40301 | Barcode: 5060000403015 | RRP: £19.99 | Certificate:
12 | Running Time: 121 Minutes | Format: B&W | Genre: World Cinema | Year: 1955
| Country: Japan.
The Special Edition includes: New high definition digital transfer | New and
improved optional English subtitles | Lavish 48-page booklet with archival publicity
stills | Newly-written essay by Tony Rayns (critic/curator of East Asian cinemas)
| Extended interview with Kon Ichikawa by Yuki Mori (The Films of Kon Ichikawa)
on the "Beginnings" of the director's involvement in cinema.
"Finely acted and poignantly driven, Kokoro is beautifully filmed in
black-and-white and tells the story of the folly of envy" Maggie Woods,