High and Low
(Tengoku to jigoku)
(The Ransom), (King's Ransom), (Heaven and Hell)
Toshiro Mifune, Kyoko Kagawa, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Tatsuya Nakadai,
Kurosawa’s adaptation of an American detective novel is both a superb, suspenseful thriller, and a Dostoyevskian metaphysical probe into the ambiguities of guilt and innocence. In one of his finest performances, Toshiro Mifune portrays a wealthy executive who must pay ransom for the release of his chauffeur’s son when the boy is mistaken for his son by a kidnapper. Kurosawa creates a constant, often ironic interplay between high and low, heaven and hell, presenting the case from the perspective of the wealthy man’s hilltop home, then from the kidnapper’s realm below, where the action descends for a manhunt that is a dazzling piece of filmmaking. The final confrontation, in which the weary father and accusatory kidnapper are separated only by the reflecting glass of a prison visiting room, epitomizes the moral anguish in which High and Low abounds.