Hachi-gatsu no kyôshikyoku aka Rhapsody in August is Akira Kurosawa's second last movie. In it, sentiments and memories of the atomic attack onto Nagasaki, and the handling of the historical event by oncoming generations, are seemingly the targeted subjects he wanted us and himself to do deal with. Maybe to leave a firm reminder. Maybe to process his own war experience. Likely both.
Through the aged woman and grandmother we are given an idea of how such an event can form a human’s life and what can stay until his end. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that is where Kurosawa only goes skin deep instead close enough to the colourful nature of the heart and its responses to this world.
Nevertheless, there are images and sequences of images of true honest beauty. With grace and charm the grandmother and her family is observed. It’s easy to relate, they have simple questions and opinions that easily can be followed.
And atmosphere. Atmosphere that lies among them and accompanies them -- obviously a characteristic of Kurosawa.
Only is it enough. Enough to learn from it, to identify with, sparking empathy and subsequent comprehension?
Close, but not quite. Not for me. But there is something that will stay with me and that is the missed potential for a masterpiece and the gently clinging emotions I received despite of it. It does raise questions in me, and interest in this very dilemma the US government had to confront and afterwards the dilemma the Japanese encountered whether to recognize a necessity of destruction or not; or maybe "just" whether they have to forgive the unthinkable.
The appearance of the characters is sometimes stifled by academic acting. But luckily Kurosawa lets them breathe most of the time and convincingly tell me with their gestures and words the possible story around a war’s victim. What’s clear to me is that the movie deserved more attention than it received in the past. What’s not clear while watching the movie is where the movie leads us to, but out in the end it leads us well – into something unfortunately real.