Idiot, The (1951)

Idiot, The (1951)

“I’m really a sick man. My brain is rotten.”

A traumatized and epilectic (“idiotic”) but deeply sympathetic veteran (Masayuki Mori) befriends a man (Toshiro Mifune) who is obsessively in love with the beautiful mistress (Setsuko Hara) of a wealthy man (EijirĂ´ Yanagi), Hara is about to be married off to a man (Minoru Chiaki) eager for a dowry being brokered by Mori’s only remaining relative (Takashi Shimura) — but when Hara falls in love with Mori, this complicates his burgeoning romantic relationship with Shimura’s daughter (Yoshiko Kuga).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Akira Kurosawa Films
  • Japanese Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Obsessive Love
  • Veterans

Akira Kurosawa’s follow-up film after the breakthrough success of Rashomon (1950) was this personal passion project — a faithful adaptation of a novel of the same name by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Kurosawa’s original version ran 265 minutes, but the abandoned footage has never been found, leaving us with a 166-minute iteration that honestly still feels pretty lengthy. While The Idiot was a personal favorite of Kurosawa’s, it hasn’t held up well as a particularly accessible movie, instead coming across as more of a literary adaptation that will be of most interest to those familiar with the novel. It’s enjoyable to see familiar and beloved faces from classic Japanese cinema:

… but we never really feel connected to their characters. The cinematography is appropriately stark:

… and the storyline’s setting in snowy, Russian-influenced Hokkaido is an effective choice:

… but I’ll wager that most viewers will find it a struggle to remain authentically engaged in the narrative.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Kurosawa fan.


One thought on “Idiot, The (1951)

  1. Agreed; not must-see. I’ve seen it but I don’t think I’d be keen to sit through it again. I’ve tried.

    In a way, since so much was cut from the film, it’s not only difficult to adequately assess it but that may also be why “we never really feel connected to [the] characters”. Of particular interest for her fans, however, is an opportunity to see Setsuko Hara attempting something quite different from her usual portrayals.

    Wikipedia explains: [It was originally intended to be a two-part film with a running time of 265 minutes. After a single, poorly received, screening of the full-length version, the film was severely cut at the request of the studio. This was against Kurosawa’s wishes.]

    The novel is a particular favorite of mine.

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