Japan | 166 min.
black & white
Akira Kurosawa, 1951
Akira Kurosawa’s The Idiot, his only adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel, was a cherished project on which it is claimed he expended more effort than on any other film. A darkly ambitious exploration of the depths of human emotion, it combines the talents of two of the greatest Japanese actors of their generation — Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) and Setsuko Hara (Tokyo Story, Late Spring). The Idiot is perhaps the most contemplative of all Kurosawa’s works, a tone which is heightened by the unusual, trance-like performances.
Kurosawa’s electrifying dramatisation uproots the novel’s Russian Summer setting to a memorable, snowbound Hokkaido — the northern-most island of Japan, closest to Russia in climate and custom. War criminal Kameda (Masayuki Mori), reprieved from a death sentence, is fresh out of the asylum, mentally fragile, and prone to epileptic fits. In turn, his emotional involvement with two women (Setsuko Hara and Yoshiko Kuga) and his new, increasingly volatile friend Akama (Toshiro Mifune) leads further into madness and gross tragedy.
Filmed between Rashomon and Ikiru, Kurosawa poured himself into faithfully capturing the essence of his favourite author’s work — only to see it butchered by the studio. Never at all released in its original 266-minute form, the original Kurosawa edit was only ever shown once at the Japanese premiere and then re-edited by the studio prior to the official Japanese release the following week. In spite of Kurosawa’s own efforts to locate the original version in the studio’s vaults forty years later, his cut is now sadly considered lost. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the longest extant version of this rarely seen film: the original 166-minute domestic release, as presented to the Japanese public in 1951.
“Of all my films, people wrote to me most about this one… …I had wanted to make The Idiot long before Rashomon. Since I was little I’ve liked Russian literature, but I find that I like Dostoevsky the best and had long thought that this book would make a wonderful film. He is still my favourite author, and he is the one — I still think — who writes most honestly about human existence.” – Akira Kurosawa
by YOSHIMOTO Mitsuhiro, 2006