Shizukanaru Ketto (1949) The Quiet Duel (+DVD Extras)
XviD/AVI | 192kbps AC3 | 640 x 480 | Japanese | HQ Scans | Subs: ENG srt | 1hr 35 | 1.37 GB
Classic / Drama
Akira Kurosawa's The Quiet Duel
contains many touches of Kurosawa's brilliance. In the opening sequence we see military doctor Kyoji Fujisaki (Toshiro Mifune) performing surgery in less than optimal conditions. Like the opening of Rashomon
, the rain hammers down mercilessly, and water has begun dripping from the roof of the tent. A nurse uses a tin pot to capture it, making a constant plunking sound against the tense silence. Fujisaki can't quite keep the sweat off his brow. Frustrated, he removes his rubber gloves to finish tying a suture, and cuts his hand on a scalpel. He is to discover soon that his patient's blood is tainted with syphilis.
As expected, The Quiet Duel isn't very fast-paced. It begins with a brilliantly constructed sequence as rain and other difficult conditions lead to Kyoji's contracting syphilis. After that, the film slows down as we get to know the other characters and settle into the set of problems which need resolution. These scenes feature long discussions and agonizing character development, as Kyoji rejects Misao a number of times and she comes crawling back, sobbing softly as he silently tortures himself. It's hard to attach to them emotionally through the middle scenes of the movie, since we don't buy that the situation could really be that hard to solve. Even through these sequences, though, the actors manage to sell the melodramatic story, in a group of understated, sincere performances.
As the film progresses, though, the script gradually catches up with the characters. When Kyoji has to once again deal with the man who gave him syphilis, it echoes his own internal struggle. There are some other developments as well, each one complicating the initially straightforward themes. Yes, we suffer sometimes when we do the right thing, and secrets sometimes cover up surprising truths. These are familiar themes, but Kurosawa uses them to explore more challenging ideas. Kyoji is given a choice towards the end of the film, one that would be difficult for any man. There is also the matter of the shame that both Kyoji and Rui feel. Kyoji hides his disease, even though he contracted it in an honorable way. Syphilis has always been a disease with a stigma attached, so he steals the medicine to treat himself. Rui would surely love to hide her shame at being pregnant and unwed, too. She has no honorable excuse for the situation she's found herself in, and it's made her an outcast in post-war Japan. She can't hide the truth, though, as there is physical evidence of her own shame.
These more complex ideas push towards a brilliant climax, that is both exciting and satisfying. By this point, it's easy to look past the petty melodrama of Kyoji's own struggle, focusing instead on the implications of the actions and choices of each of the characters. As with most of his films, Kurosawa keenly turns a simple story into a poetic exploration of philosophy and politics. The Quiet Duel works as both an ensemble drama and an exploration of post-war Japan, exploring how those who return from war must always leave things behind on the battlefield, whether out of pride or shame.
By the time the war ends, and Fujisaki returns home, the untreated disease has cursed him. He has never known physical pleasure and will never be able to marry his true love, Misao Matsumoto (Miki Sanjo), nor can he tell her the reason why. Kurosawa films the bulk of the film on a shabby hospital sound stage as Fujisaki emptily goes about his duties; only his father (Takashi Shimura) and an apprentice nurse (Noriko Sengoku) know the truth. Kurosawa uses shadows and unique framing to enhance the story, shooting through holes, broken windows or down the long corridors. And though Mifune was probably too intense for this melancholy role, he manages rather nicely. This was Mifune's second film with Kurosawa (after Drunken Angel
) and they would go on to make history together; appropriately, their final film would be another hospital drama, Red Beard
There's some excellent cinematography slipped into the mix as well. Although The Quiet Duel
doesn't show the same brilliant framing and composition that Kurosawa developed as his career continued, there are several breathtaking moments. The performances are also exceptional throughout, highlighting why Mifune would become such a key player in Kuroawa's work and Japanese cinema's biggest star. His stoic performance simmers until Kyoji eventually explodes with emotion, all the more effective because of the silence that has come before. Special mention must also be made of Noriko Sengoku, whose fiery apprentice nurse is richly developed and entertaining. She is a brilliant counterpoint to Mifune's silence, and reason enough to check out the film.
DVD Extra: Interviews with actors and crew from The Quiet Duel