PUBLIC LECTURE: Looking for meaning in all the wrong places
|Looking for meaning in all the wrong places : screening of Kurosawa's Ikiru and lecture by Michael Levine
Akira Kurosawa directed and co-wrote Ikiru in 1952. Filmed in black and white, it ostensibly tells the story of Kanji Watanabe, a bureaucrat and section chief who spends virtually his entire life working in a city office. Neither Watanabe nor anyone else in the office actually does anything much that is worthwhile or productive. They shuffle and stamp papers that simply move from useless pile to useless pile. They may look as if they are actually getting something done, but not only does it become clear that they are doing nothing but also that they are meant to be doing nothing, and also that they on some level, aware that they do nothing. The office, with piles and piles of neatly tied and stacked folders, is itself in effect a façade—a stage set—and in some ways a quite beautiful one.
After he learns he has terminal cancer—a fact that the doctors lie to him about—Watanabe immediately becomes desolate. It is by means of this palpable despair that Watanabe becomes aware that he is faced with a problem that goes beyond his impending death. The nature of that problem is the focus of this talk.
Ikiru is a case in which a philosophical problem is presented and a solution offered in situ, that is, in the context of a particular life and the concrete problems encountered in it. It is, in many ways, both prior to and more powerful than treatments of the problem in professional philosophy. More through visual than verbal narrative, Kurosawa intimates that in the face of death not only Watanabe, but we too, are alone.
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