Scene Stealing: An old man swinging on a swing set

Published by Wexter in the blog Wexter's blog. Views: 225

Outside of any context the scene you might picture seems comedic and downright silly. So how is this considered one of the most touching and poignant moments ever set to film?

***contains spoilers***​

Ikiru (Japanese for "to live"), directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, chronicles the last year of Kenji Watanabe as he deals with his mortality and the short time he has left due to a terminal illness. Near the end of his life, as his previous accomplishments are stripped of their meaning, he, in his time as a city bureaucrat, has accomplished very little. Facing his demise, he now seeks to leave behind a legacy. He finds that the answer has been in front of him all along: at work, as a small link in the contorted chain of government bureaucracy, he has continually passed along the concerns of the neighborhood mothers who complain about an unsafe plot of land near their homes. In the short time he has left, he dedicates the remainder of his life advocating for the conversion of that land into a public park.

The final act of the film takes place at his funeral as family and coworkers discuss whether the park would have been built with or without his effort, thus calling into question his entire legacy. At one point, an officer interrupts them to tell of an odd scene he encountered in the park late one cold, snowy night. The flashback then cuts to Watanabe singing on a swing set as the gentle snow falls all around him.

The song he sings, Gondola no uta, had been played near the beginning of the movie during a scene at which he broke down in tears after coming to grips with what he believes is an inoperable tumor. At this moment he is at peace, and his singing of the song becomes not only an acceptance of his fate, but also a readiness for whatever comes between now and the time of his death. This is the final scene we see of Kenji Watanabe: the momentum of him gently swinging back and forth, enjoying the course he set in motion and content in his freedom from all the meaningless conventions that bound him to his previous life.
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