Thoughts on Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

What Loving the One Earth We Live Implies

scene from the Weeping Demon

Giant dandelions… a rose with its stem growing from the flower… human heads with growing horns, people turned into demons….. These are just some of the images the viewer will get while watching the 1990 film “Dreams” by renowned Japanese Director Akira Kurosawa. In “The Weeping Demon”, one of the eight dreams narrated in an episodic style, the story unfolds with the younger Akira’s representation found walking in a desolate land, the scene – an aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. The young Akira met a figure, who says he was a former human being who had grown one horn on his head after the meltdown. He wept for the tragic results of what he claimed as human folly, when man desecrates the environment and commits excesses out of greed, arrogance and ignorance. In this “hellish” place, demons (who were former humans living in that habitat) roam around devouring the weaker ones as their sustenance. Yet, the weaker demon (strength is determined by the number of horns growing on the demon’s head) felt a sense of glee on the fact that the demons with more horns on their head suffer greater pain than what he experiences. The demon then led the man Akira to where the howling of the greater demons were emanating. The number of horns each got was probably equal to the extent of the monstrosities of their deeds while still in their “human” form. Anyone can have his own interpretation of what these images meant. What is clear is that the film presents a picture of what humanity can do to bring its own destruction.

The film has a very interesting ending with the man Akira running away from the scene. As the weeping demon implies, he can become like one of them if he stays. As a viewer of the film, there are two conclusions that can be gleaned from it. One – there is a hope for the man who strayed into that “hellish place”, he can go away and not be like the demons themselves. Second, he has witnessed the repercussions of the monstrosities done by those former human beings turned into demons. He has a story to tell.

stumps

In another episode, “The Peach Orchard,” the story unfolds from the conversation between a woman (probably the Mother) and a boy who just learned about what his family had done. They had cut all the trees in the orchard. The boy was saddened by this, and on a day celebrated for the Dolls, he had a rare experience of engaging them in a dialogue right were the stumps of the mutilated peaches stood. He was assailed by a strange apparition of a girl, whom he thought was one of the visiting friends of his older sister.

peace orchard2

The girl led him to what was once the orchard where the dialogue took place. Convinced of his sincere love for the trees, the Dolls showed him the possibilities of each tree re-growing and the Peach Orchard coming back to life again. In another culture, the Dolls would have represented the Unseen Spirits that most indigenous communities believe protect the forest. This film sends the message of conserving Nature conveyed in the most simple and direct manner that even a child can understand.

peach orchard1

In the last episode, “Village of the Watermills,” the viewer is shown an ideal community where pristine waters flow through its creeks with watermills constructed by the locals and maintained by its old and wizened folks. The people of this place were said to have shunned pollution and preferred to live simply and preserve their environment. It is no wonder then that they live as long as 100 years old or more. The communal spirit and respect for one another is also strong shown in the coming together of young and old to the hearse of an old woman who also lived past a hundred years. The old man fixing the broken watermill did not hesitate to leave his work to join the procession. The Dreamer Kurosawa was intrigued by what he had just witnessed. It was a place that honored even the stranger and traveler, and there was one whom the locals believed had his remains buried by the roadside. Children would come and place flowers on the grave, a habit that this community practiced to respect both dead and living.

watermills

watermills2

old man

The film’s vivid cinematography, simple plot and language appeal to viewers of all ages. It comes in a light and unique packaging yet leaves you wanting to have more. It speaks plain language, yet leaves behind a profound message.

rainbow

(Credits: Images from google.com)

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