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Doomed (Ikiru) is a Japanese full-length feature film that was released in 1952. It was directed by world-renowned Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa has said that the movie was inspired by The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a Russian novel by famed author Leo Tolstoy. The Death of Ivan Ilyinch is considered to be one of Tolstoy’s best pieces and was created when Tolstoy struggled with his religious choices. Kurosawa used the novel to create a powerful, poignant movie of a man who has just realized that he needs to live his life. Ikiru, translated, means “to live”.


Ikiru is about a man named Ken Watanabe. He is a middle-aged man who has had the same boring job and the same boring life for his entire life. He has no close friends and he and his only son are fighting over the size of his retirement fund. His son and daughter-in-law are worried about how much of his money Watanabe will be leaving them.

Watanabe’s life is turned upside-down when he discovers that he has gastric cancer. His doctor gives him a year to live and Watanabe realizes that he wants to truly live his year, rather than just getting through it. He first heads to one of Tokyo’s hottest bars, but is uncomfortable there and realizes that it is not for him. The next day he meets a young woman who has such a zest for life that Watanabe is charmed. He tells her that he wishes that for one day of his life, he could be as youthful and carefree as she is. She tells Watanabe that she gets such joy from making toys. It makes her feel as if she is friends with all of the children in Japan, she relates to the curious man.

Watanabe then gives himself a new mission. He wants to have one great achievement to his credit before he dies. He meets his son and attempts to tell him about the cancer and his plans, but his son ignores him, so Watanabe keeps it to himself. He finds a rotten piece of land that is just sitting there, doing nothing. Mosquitos surround the area and it is littered with trash. Watanabe is eventually able to convince those in charge of the area to let him change it into a playground for the neighborhood children. He finally manages to do so and regales that it is the best thing in his life he has ever accomplished.

Later, at Watanabe’s wake, his co-workers wonder at the differences that occurred in him right before he died. They realize that he must have known about his impending death and that was why he chose to try to make an impact on the world. They raise their glasses and swear that they will live the rest of their lives as Ken Watanabe did shortly before he died. The next day, though, they are back at work doing the same boring thing and living the same boring lives.

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