Loss and the Evanescence of Restoration – Akira Kurosawa – Stray Dog (1949)

The subject of the film is loss. Individual loss, in the unpremeditated caprice of elemental oppression—heat, rain, language—of what is given, and what is kept; and if recovered, the abject meaninglessness and the ephemeral enchantment of restoration.


Toshiro Mifune, in Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog

The symbol in the film is a stolen policeman’s gun. It has a finite number of bullets for a finite number of criminal possibilities, or possibilities against criminals. It is what the gun can bring to the thief—money, for example, as its replacement—and what the gun can bring to the police—the suppression, momentarily, of thievery. The thieves are as much at one with their society as are the police; the one not necessarily better than the other, other than in the context of social mores and norms; each having become, and continuing to become, what each is within the influence of each has had, and has, access to: money or its lack, comfort and discomfort, stability and instability, the indifference of circumstance, moral decision and choice, the certainty of ambiguity.


Takashi Shimura, in Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog

There is a long, ten minutes’ sequence near the beginning of the film when the robbed policeman walks obsessively throughout Tokyo in search of the stolen gun. There is no dialogue; the sequence is entirely visual, accompanied by music. It is remarkable not only because of its cinematic virtuosity but also because latent in it is the presupposition the search is pointless and needless, but that where it occurs, and where it takes the searcher, is what compels—the variations of society in which each individual is alone and separate, with the illusions of compulsion, to stray as each must, to find what one must in order to live, and so become what one is.

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