When an act of desperation leads to an act of cruelty, there's no telling what a man will do for revenge.
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a remake of a 1962 cult classic by Masaki Kobayashi. Here world renowned director Takashi Miike takes on the subject matter of love, loss and revenge in a thrilling and heart breaking tale of sacrifice. When a poverty stricken samurai Hanshiro Tsukumo (Ichikawa) requests to commit a ritual suicide in the grounds at the prestigious House of Li, Kageyu the lord of the house attempts to dissuade Hanshiro from pursuing the honourable ritual; retelling a tragic story of a similar plea made to the house by a young man called Motome, a man who was merely bluffing in the hope of receiving a place in the house or some coin before being sent on his way.
The House of Li didn't take kindly to the subterfuge and the boy was forced to complete the ritual he had promised to fulfil. Honour is honour and promises of Hara-Kiri will be taken seriously in all cases.
Hanshiro still wishes to continue on with the ritual but his final request reveals that he may be in the house grounds for more than a just an honourable death.
It's quite strange that throughout history each region has their own interpretation of honour and by far the most distressing and interesting is that of the east, in fact although practices may not be as drastic as they were in the 17th century, the far east still instills a culture of honour into their society to this day. Something us Brits have lost over the years... Imagine that, taking responsibility for your own actions...
In Hara-Kiri this story of revenge is one I've not seen before, it's so ultimately depressing that you'll feel a little cheated by the film which Takashi Miike has taken a lot of care into bringing to the screen. I hated 13 Assassins, I think I was the only one who hated Miike's last film but Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is such a breath of fresh air when it comes to moving forward for the director.
This film is all about its characters, its three principal cast members. The story of Motome and his wife is a tragic one, in fact Motome's introduction into the film is an extremely hard piece of cinema to watch, his entire belief system is put to the test in a barbaric show put on by the House of Li, there was no way he was leaving that place alive and when his story comes to be told it is one of great tragedy.
A tragedy that the House of Li assisted in making worse. We never know what we'll do when push comes to shove, I can't imagine ever being so low that I'd want to take my own life, I can't imagine people today would sacrifice themselves for a loved one; today people would probably push their spouse down the stairs for the insurance money... It makes me wonder how society got to this point as a whole because stories like the ones in Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai have popped up in history, film and literature for years, when did we lose our faith in honesty and tradition? Even the Brits had pistols at dawn to protect our honour at one point...
Hara-Kiri is a brutal form of self mutilation which results in death, an honourable death in the eyes of the community as it shows a great sacrifice... The film itself presents the subject matter as a violent but noble way to die, the only time it is perverted is during the scene in which Motome takes his own life and believe me, despite the lack of blood it's not pretty.
A tale of anguish on so many levels that if I were to tell you any more would be truly spoiling it for you. Be thankful for the slight lull in the middle of the film, you might need it to compose yourself for the vengeance to come.
Hara-Kiri isn't great but it's certainly a watchable piece of entertainment from Revolver that continues to bring out the best in the distributor, I for one thank them for their varied out put... I prefer this style of film to the urban classics they appeared to be shifting towards... :) Give me more!!