Short Film Review: Village of the Watermills by Akira Kurosawa

By Archana Iyer • Published on May 31, 2012

[A]kira Kurosawa dreams of a sustainable, happy world to live in; he calls this world Village of the Watermills. This short film is the last in Kurosawa’s collection of eight shorts called ‘Dreams’. All eight films are actual dreams that Kurosawa had at different points in his life. The final dream appears to be a happy ending that leaves the audience with a ray of hope for the future.

Kurosawa was a highly influential Japanese film director, screenwriter, producer and editor who won multiple awards at Cannes, Oscars and Berlin. He also won the Academy award for lifetime achievement. He is said to be the inspiration for George Lucas’s Star Wars. Kurosawa’s vision is extraordinary and his profound stories can often be looked at from different points of view.

Village of the Watermills is the story of a young traveler who walks into a village that perhaps resembles paradise on earth. The village is self-sustained and represents a natural way of life. The traveler unravels the village life through his conversation with an old man residing in the village. The old man’s monologue on how mankind has destroyed nature in the name of ‘progress’ is extremely powerful and will compel you to think.

The village does not consume electricity. The village folk use linseed oil and lamps at night. The village has paddies cultivated by horses and cows, but not tractors. Their fuel is cow dung and firewood of fallen trees. An interesting part about the village is that nobody dies before their time. Everyone lives till their nineties. The old man himself is hundred and three. Death is not a time of mourning but a time to celebrate a wholesome life lived till the end.

The cinematography of the film is adorned with clear skies, green tress, colorful flowers, windmills and crystal clear waters. The performance of the old man as someone with the wisdom of the ages is brilliant. The shot of the funeral procession with the affirmative parade music is a vivid treat to watch.

The old man dishes out a lesson or two on life when he says that people get so used to convenience that they forget what is truly good. It makes one reflect on how we trade technology and comforts for necessities like clean air and clear blue sky. We trade wooden furniture for house plants; air conditioners for natural air and luxury cars for long walks. Kurosawa dreams of a world where people live on what they need to have and not what is convenient to have. It is a world free of excess and indulgence; a world that celebrates nature and life. Kurosawa’s world might be influenced by the drastic infestation of technology in Japan and the increased felling of trees. Kurosawa dreams.

Link to the short film: http://vimeo.com/31359086

Archana Iyer is a Short film enthusiast, scriptwriter, poet and account planner in an ad agency.

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