No Regret For Our Youth

No Regret For Our Youth

Rating: 7/10
Year: 1946
Genre: Drama
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita, Akitake Kono

Akira Kurosawa is famous of his Samurai films, To name a few are Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. However, if you only watch his Samurai films and ignore the rest, you would have missed a lot. Films like Record of A Living Being, Ikiru and No Regret For Our Youth do not have any action scenes at all, but they are absolutely the best of Kurosawa's works, along with his Samurai films.

This film is about the life and struggle of Yukie Yagihara (Setsuko Hara), the daughter of an expelled university professor. In a linear narrative way, the film depicts how she falls in love with Noge (Susumu Fujita), a rebel of the society, and becomes a honorable daughter-in-law eventually.

Although this film is set in a chaotic era and it seems to touch upon the topic of politics, it is not about politics actually. If you watch the film carefully, you will notice that the pivotal figure of this film is neither the two boys nor politics, it is Yukie Yagihara and her life that Kurosawa is interested in talking about. It seems that Kurosawa wants to examine how people react to the social situation rather than how the social situation affects the people. Throughout the films, there is basically no scene that is talking about politics seriously. In most of the turning points, Kurosawa depicts Yukie's internal state vividly, for instance, after Noge leaves her house, there are several dissolve shots showing her leaning toward the doors with different poses. This scene delineates her complicated psychological state perfectly in visual form. After all, Kurosawa is not a politician, he is a filmmaker!

In this film, we are seeing the diegesis through the eyes of Yukie. For instance, when Yukie is walking in the field at daytime, we hear a lot of voice saying "spy, spy" and some whispering and murmuring sound, but we do not see anyone actually speaking on the screen. It is as if we are placed in the perspective of Yukie, so that we are hearing what she hears at that moment. Since the people who are talking are supposed to be hiding, it explains why we only hear the voice but don't see anyone there.
I think Kurosawa is not trying to make any moral judgement in this film. Whether Noge and Yukie are right or wrong is not the subject at all. He is rather interested in their action and reaction. It seems that he wants to say that our life can be meaningful as long as we are able to make our own decision and have control of our own life. We should live for ourselves and avoid being affected by the social situation. We should overcome the hardship instead of adapting and reconciling.

As the protagonist and the main focus of the film, Setsuko Hara's performance is excellent. From the high class and innocent girl in the beginning to the understanding homemaker in the end, the change of emotional state and physical gestures are well calculated. It is no wonder why she could become a long time partner with another director Yasujiro Ozu later in her career.

It is also interesting to compare this film with Kenji Mizoguchi's The Last Chrysanthemum, because both films celebrate the virtue of a honorable wife. I think these films are quite rare in Japanese cinema because the portrait of a strong woman does not match the traditional image of woman in Japan at all.

VHS (US version) - As you can expect, VHS is unable to present a film satisfactorily. The only good thing about it is the decent English subtitles. Since the DVD of this film is widely distributed, I couldn't think of any reason that you shouldn't get it.

Cool guy(s) - Setsuko Hara

Reviewed by: Kantorates