It is its historical context—intellectual absolutism at Kyoto University, the imperialistic justification of war and its patriotic subservience to it, and the crude thoughtlessness of ignorance held captive by poverty—that first catches one’s attention. Then, to this, Kurosawa counterpoints the contrast between the rural and the urban, the free and the imprisoned, the oppressed and the oppressors, the artful and the artless.
And amongst this context and contrast he presents the pursuit of what it is to live, as water of the stream that flows free between the impermanent confines of its banks. And how this pursuit demands its own self-sufficiency, held in the behaviour of its own necessity and necessities, within the social situation that colours the possibilities within its being. The story, consequently, is isolated in the implacability of decisions made by the film’s main character, and the inexorable unpredicability of events that come against the inexorability of her choices; the story testing more than only the artistic fascination that Kurosawa induces in those who watch.