At 166 minutes and even with another 100 minutes excised at the request of Shochiku, its production studio, Akira Kurosawa’s The Idiot is largely unendurable. It is boring, plodding, and narratively dead. Not quite Dostoyevsky. It is a miscalculation by a director who seldom made them. At least of this magnitude. But every artist has miscalculations. This film followed Rashomon and was followed by Ikiru.
The constant snow of Sapporo is more a belaboured distraction than a dramatic setting. The actors, who are some of the best of the time, rely on devices of diminishing returns: hands clutched below the throat (Masayuki Mori), capes thrown over shoulders (Setsuko Hara), eyes with a single expression of wildness (Toshiro Mifune). The musical score (Fumio Hayasaka) is maddeningly tedious (Fumio Hayasaka, who was from Sapporo, and who went on to better things with Kurosawa and Mizoguchi).
Then again, perhaps it would have been a better film if the 100 minutes had been allowed to remain.