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Ikiru PG rating

A bureaucrat’s life finds new meaning in Kurosawa’s classic original, the source for Bill Nighy’s brilliant drama, Living.

Drama 1952 143 mins

Director: Akira Kurosawa


Never one to shy away from grand themes, Akira Kurosawa here tackles the biggest and simplest of existential issues: the fact of mortality and the impact that the inevitability of death has on an individual life. A diagnosis of terminal stomach cancer forces a bureaucrat to take stock of his life and to seek some way of giving it meaning. Built around a superb central performance from Takashi Shimura, this is a classic of humanist cinema.

Kurosawa wrote the script with Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni, creating not only a powerful indictment of bureaucracy but also a hard-boiled metaphysical affirmation of the moral message found in the title – Ikiru means to live. Ranked joint 157th in the 2022 Sight and Sound Great Films of All Time poll