In faithfully adapting Maxim Gorky’s classic play The Lower Depths, Akira Kurosawa incorporated themes from several of his better-known films. Transplanted from the play’s Russian setting to Japan’s Edo (pre-Tokyo) period, the film cleverly places its poverty-stricken characters into a vividly Japanese context while retaining their tenacious defense against life’s relentless miseries. As the title implies, the comedic drama unfolds literally in a hole–a dreary tenement sunken into a refuse-strewn landscape–where Kurosawa’s superb cast breathes life into the hopes, dreams, and delusions of their characters. Landlady, thief, prostitute, tinker, actor… all but the cynical gambler live in desperate self-deception, and Kurosawa finds poignant humor in the ways they hold reality at bay. Toshiro Mifune excels as the thief, but this is perhaps Kurosawa’s greatest ensemble achievement; lengthy rehearsals and multiple cameras resulted in a fluid, masterful film full of fine performances, confined to only two intimate settings yet embracing universal foibles of humanity.
Title: The Lower Depths Also Known As: どん底 / Dozoko Country: Japan Language: Japanese Subtitle: English Year: 1957 Genre: Drama