The Lower Depths (Donzoko)

Kurosawa's adaptation of Gorky's play is both literal and theatrical. Little of the original was changed and the approach is that of filming a play, though Kurosawa's innate cinematic sense enables him to avoid the look of a play-on-film. In the confined, depressing place that is the only setting for the action, the camera seems to be everywhere, not so much photographing a set as examining an environment and its inhabitants. The characters - thief, landlady, gambler, priest, samurai, prostitute, actor, and the others - represent various ways of life. What they have in common is that they have all come to grief; what's more, they all believe their fate to be different from what it is.

Kurosawa sees their predicament as both miserable and ridiculous. Their lives are without real hope; they exist on the lowest level of society. At the same time they manage to ignore their reality and to sustain delusions about themselves that are often laughable. Kurosawa's troupe of actors perform brilliantly, creating characters at once pathetic and comic.

The Lower Depths (Donzoko) is repeated on Wednesday, May 23.

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