Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (‘Ichimei’)

DRAMA; 2hr 6min (Japanese with subtitles)

STARRING: Ebizô Ichikawa, Eita, Hikari Mitsushima

Samurai roulette: Ichikawa (foreground)

Times are tough for samurai in the 17th-century Japan of 13 Assassins director Takashi Miike’s hankie-wringer reshaping of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri. With the country enjoying an era of peace, many warriors are out of work, and driven, as the unemployed can be, to desperate measures. 


Suicide bluffs are the ultimate gamble: a samurai begs the elders of a noble house to do him the dubious favour of allowing him to cut open his stomach and bleed to death on their premises while secretly hoping to be talked out of it and paid off. Undeterred by the recent grisly fate of a fellow penniless rōnin (Eita), Hanshirô (Ichikawa) is insistent that he go the exact same way: on his knees in the courtyard of the House of Li.


With more to his mission than meets the eye, so begins a meditative and tragic reminiscence. Alas, there’s a blade-thin difference between stately and soporific. Hara-Kiri is as noble and sorrowful as a weeping willow but anyone expecting two hours of flashy, blade-slinging action will be in for a woe-filled reawakening.