I Live in Fear

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Made in the mid-50s, with the Cold War at its height and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still raw and recent memories, I Live in Fear reflects the Japanese national mood of helpless terror in the face of what seemed like imminent nuclear combat. Kurosawa’s protagonist, a 70-year-old industrialist, is resolved to take action, however misguided, and to drag his whole family along with him. As the headstrong patriarch, Mifune gives an extraordinary, ultra-stylised performanceoa 35-year-old playing a man twice his age. The film is set in a Tokyo gripped by a merciless heatwave, and images of intolerable heat pervade the film as if reflecting the overheated emotions that torment Mifune’s character. But Kurosawa also turns his film into a critique of the patriarchal despotism that has so long distorted Japanese society. When the old man’s family and his workforce prove to have minds of their own and dare to question his authority, it threatens to overturn his sanity. I Live in Fear is one of Kurosawa’s most personal and deeply-felt films.
Japan, 1955. English subtitles. Black and white. 103 mins.

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