“I don’t have time to get angry.”Williams
In its moving simplicity, Ikiru is probably my favourite of Akira Kurosawa’s films. Adapting the screenplay 70 years later, Kazuo Ishigura has shifted the setting to London but opted to stay in the same 1950s post-war era. In fact the opening credits could deceive one into thinking that Living was made in the 50s, though it subsequently retains only the antiquated aspect ratio. The period makes sense for Nighy’s particular breed of gentleman civil servant, dutifully slowing down progress (“We can keep it here. It can do no harm.”) and distanced from those with whom he lives by a familial inability to communicate. Ikiru’s themes are all on display: the failure of bureacracy, the search for meaning in life, and the revitalising freedom of being faced with one’s mortality. After receiving his diagnosis, Williams’ ruminations are shown as memories bleeding through from black and white into colour, and he finds the liberation of inebriation brings only exhaustion. Aimee Lou Wood translates the charm she displayed on Sex Education to the big screen as Mr Williams’ youthful colleague who serves as the catalyst for his redemptive work. Her guileless affection serves as a counterpoint to Nighy’s measured performance, a chilly exterior swiftly giving way to a melancholic warmth, and the film’s success is tied to these performances. Living is such a slavishly faithful adaptation that it has little insight to add to its source material and yet — since so many people will balk at watching at a 70-year-old Japanese film — I cannot fault the creation of this British facsimile that is undoubtedly more palatable to a modern Western audience and nearly as beautiful in the same quiet simplicity.