Review of Harakiri (1962)

Moving picture, 133 minutes

A lot of warriors have been put out of work, distrusted by the government, in the early 17th century. It has become a dishonourable last resort for such starving rounin to go to wealthy households and request or threaten to kill themselves there; the wealthy sometimes offer gold to keep such men out. However, a proudly traditional household may attempt to call the bluff, forcing enactment of an extremely painful stomach-cut suicide despite the peace of the new shougunate.

It takes almost two hours for the swordplay to begin in this deconstructive drama, but the preceding discussion of corruption and cruelty hiding behind tradition and honour is nice. The whole thing is beautifully shot, with amusing sonic punctuation. “Harakiri”, although a Japanese word, is the English-language release title. The original title, Seppuku, is a more general, more ritualistic, more approving and substantially less vulgar near-synonym.

References here: Rebellion (1967).

moving picture Japanese production fiction