Watch Harakiri

"The world has never understood why the Japanese prefer death to dishonor! Winner of Prix Special du Jury at Cannes 1963 provides the answer!!"
  • NR
  • 1963
  • 2 hr 15 min
  • 8.6  (67,509)
  • 85

Harakiri is a 1962 Japanese film directed by Masaki Kobayashi, and it stars Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, and Shima Iwashita. The movie is set in the 17th century, during the Edo period in Japan. It follows the story of a samurai named Tsugumo Hanshirō, who arrives in the courtyard of a wealthy feudal lord's residence and requests permission to kill himself by harakiri (seppuku) in their inner garden. The samurai's request is unusual, and this provokes the curiosity and mistrust of the lord's retainers. Over the course of the movie, the complex motives behind Hanshirō's request are revealed, and the events that led to it are explored.

The movie starts with Tsugumo Hanshirō, who is a ronin (a masterless samurai), arriving at the residence of the Iyi clan, one of the most prestigious and powerful clans in Japan. He requests an audience with the clan's chief retainer, Saitō Kageyu, and asks to be allowed to perform harakiri in their inner garden. However, Kageyu is skeptical of Hanshirō's intentions, thinking that he is just trying to get money from the clan. The reason for this is that the practice of samurai committing harakiri was becoming increasingly common during the Edo period as the economic and political stability of Japan had resulted in a surplus of samurai who could not secure employment. It had become a trend where masterless samurais would go to wealthy households to request permission to commit seppuku, and if they were not given an adequate sum of money, they would walk away unharmed.

But Tsugumo Hanshirō is not one of those samurais. He is a proud and honorable warrior who wants to perform harakiri as a way of restoring his family's honor. Throughout the movie, we learn about the events that led to his arrival at the Iyi clan, as the narrative shifts between his past and present.

We learn that Hanshirō had once been a loyal vassal of the Iyi clan but had fallen on hard times. At the time, the clan had a policy of denying requests from masterless samurais, and so Hanshirō had been turned away when he had made a similar request to the clan's chief retainers. His daughter and son-in-law had to resort to begging to make ends meet, and eventually, Hanshirō's daughter had died from starvation. Hanshirō's wife had also died in despair in his absence, and when he returned home, he found her body.

Hanshirō's grief is palpable, and his rage towards the Iyi clan is understandable. He demands accountability from the clan, specifically from the retainers who had denied him his request. The rest of the movie explores the themes of duty, honor, and revenge as Hanshirō confronts each of the Iyi clan's retainers, and the violent confrontations that ensue.

The movie makes a commentary on the hypocrisy of the samurai code, where ideals of honor and duty were often at odds with the reality of political maneuvering and self-preservation. Hanshirō's actions confront this dichotomy of ideals, and his quest for revenge exposes the harsh realities of the samurai class as feudalism gave way to the economic reality of modern Japan.

The cinematography of Harakiri is stunning, with long takes, minimal camera movement, and a restrained color palette that imbues the film with a somber and meditative tone. The movie's score, composed by Tōru Takemitsu, is equally evocative, with sparse instrumentation that heightens the sense of stillness and tension.

Overall, Harakiri is a masterful exploration of Japanese history and culture, and the conflicts that arise when ideals of honor and duty clash with the realities of survival. The performances are affecting and subtle, and the script is both sorrowful and unflinching in its portrayal of the samurai class. It is a must-see for fans of Japanese cinema or anyone interested in the complex history of Japan.

Harakiri is a 1963 action movie with a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 8.6 and a MetaScore of 85.

Where to Watch Harakiri
Harakiri is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV and Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent Harakiri for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 15 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    8.6  (67,509)
  • Metascore