Literature Report


Akira Kurosawa's Dreams is a collection of 8 shorter works, each inspired by one of his more common dreams. Each dream has its own thematic message, but all share a common trait of emphasizing both the fragility and the persistence of life, a topic often recognized in the Haikus of the Edo period. If you enjoy this sort of postmodernism, then Dreams is definitely a movie you should watch yourself.

The second short, The Peach Orchard, is an exploration into representation of nature as part of a cultural artifact. The dream takes place during Hinamatsuri, a spring doll festival. The dolls are angry at our main character for the destruction of the peach trees, being the symbolic tree of Hinamatsuri, in their orchard.

The third short, The Blizzard, involves the Yuki-onna of Japanese folklore. She tries to entice our main character into believing that "the snow is warm, the ice is hot": something you would feel during the final stages of hypothermia.1

The sixth short, Mount Fuji in Red, relays common fears about nuclear power. One of the main elements of the short is the stupidity of humankind's performative actions. In this dream, radioactive dust is colored in such a way that you can tell what element it's comprised of. A character comes to realize how stupid this is as coloring the material doesn't do anything for you except for telling you how you'll die.


Contrary to Dreams, Ikiru is realistic to the point where I, someone who cries at very little, cried at least four times watching it. It's seriously a heart-wrencher. It's incredibly masterfully crafted.

The three big themes of Ikiru are the struggle to find meaning in life, the inefficacy of bureaucracy, and the disappearance of the traditional Japanese family. Our main character, Kanji Watanabe, has been working a do-nothing job for 30 years straight, never missing a single day. Yet, as he discovers he only has 6 months to live, he enters a deep depression: he hasn't done anything in 30 years, his efforts to increase the efficacy of his workplace have all stagnated, and his son Matsuo grows distant, seeming to only care about taking Watanabe's money so that he can move out into a western-style house of his own.

Watanabe entirely changes as a person, seeking to find what it means to do positive change. His coworkers lack the courage to do the same.