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Ikiru

is a 1952 Japanese drama film directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa and starring Takashi Shimura. The film examines the struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. The screenplay was partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1886 novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Plot

Kanji Watanabe has worked in the same monotonous bureaucratic position for thirty years and is near his retirement. His wife is dead and his son and daughter-in-law, who live with him, seem to care mainly about Watanabe's pension and their future inheritance. At work, he's a party to constant bureaucratic inaction. In one case, a group of parents are seemingly endlessly referred to one department after another when they want a cesspool cleared out and replaced by a playground. After learning he has stomach cancer and less than a year to live, Watanabe attempts to come to terms with his impending death. He plans to tell his son about the cancer, but decides against it when his son does not pay attention to him. He then tries to find escape in the pleasures of Tokyo's nightlife, guided by an eccentric novelist whom he has just met. In a nightclub, Watanabe requests a song from the piano player, and sings "Gondola no Uta" with great sadness. His singing greatly affects those watching him. After one night submerged in the nightlife, he realizes this is not the solution.