That’s why I try to avoid Kurosawa. He, again and again, brings me to the question of free will. Does free will exist at all? Can we be fully responsible for the actions we select from a set of choices in given circumstances? I as an individual am not an isolated object. I am connected to the whole universe through tangible and intangible wires. I am connected with the society, its people and the circumstances created by the collective action of all these factors. Today I am able to take a decision because what I am and what I am is the result of my upbringing in this society. My thought process is not something that I developed on my own without the influence of any external factor. So, what course of action I take can never be independent of all these factors. Even the choices or what appear to be choices is outcomes of my thinking, the thinking which is the result of numerous variables. So, in reality, the choices available to us are also our individual creation. How can I claim full responsibility for any action I take in any circumstance?
Ok, I am coming back to the film. That’s why I avoid Kurosawa. Scandal is the story of a painter (Toshiro Mifune) who sues a tabloid for printing a false, fabricated story of him having a secret affair with a famous singer (Shirley Yamaguchi). The tabloid has done it before, but no one has sued them for their own reasons. However, this time, an advocate Otokichi Hiruta (Takashi Shimura) comes by himself to the painter and asks to be his counsel for the case. Hiruta has a teenage daughter who has Tuberculosis and is waiting on her death bed for the time to come to an end. Hiruta is a poor man. The owner of the tabloid, Hori (Eitaro Ozawa) cunningly corrupts poor Hiruta into drinking and betting to make him lose the case. Hiruta does as commanded and builds up a weak case without witnesses. His daughter is very upset and sad about the dishonesty of his father and in a terrific scene tells the painter, who has befriended her, to never come to her again as her father is cheating him. The painter tells her that he knows that already but has not lost hope and waiting for the poor man to come to his senses.
Kurosawa through this scandal has given us a film that depicts human behavior in different circumstances. Hiruta is fully conscious that he is being deceitful to his profession and to his client; he is conscious that he is even being deceitful to his dying daughter, but he cannot help it. In a brilliant scene, a drunken Hiruta explains in detail why he is drunk and how it happens. This scene is a masterpiece. He just like every drunkard explains everything that goes in his mind to justify his drinking at the same time being fully aware that he has done something wrong, something beyond explanation. In another scene in a bar, he makes promises for the New Year to bring a smile to his daughter and to be a good father.
So, is Hiruta a bad man or just a victim of the circumstances? He definitely has choices but can he be held fully and completely responsible for the actions he chose. This question can be extended to all of us. Are we all victims of circumstances?
However, by this logic, every criminal can claim that whatever he did was just the result of his being a victim of circumstance. He can claim that the choices he made were all results of numerous external variables beyond his control. I think for this reason only every modern society has laws. The lawmakers must have contemplated all these questions and then came up with the laws of the land. A society to survive, laws are necessary to guide its people in making a proper selection of actions. We cannot just trust our individual thought processes or personal moralities when the result of our actions affects people other than ourselves.
Kurasawa with this simple, emotional story of an advocate has given us a lot of questions to contemplate. This film is very much entertaining and the performances are real. Kurosawa takes the help of melodrama occasionally. Takashi Shimura brings his character to life with his brilliant performance. You can feel the pain of this dishonest lawyer. Toshiro Mifune, as the free spirited painter has, as usual, killer screen presence and acts very well.
I do not consider myself worthy of reviewing or commenting on Kurosawa’s direction and every single time he doesn’t give me any choice but to enjoy it. You too, just enjoy it.