Nature Lessons by Akira Kurosawa

         In his 1990 film, Dreams, Akira Kurosawa concentrated more on imagery than on dialogue. Dreams consists of eight dreams sequences that represent the past, present, and future worlds of his main character "I." Focusing on the relationship between man and nature, Dreams accents the frailty of both man and nature by demonstrating that man is powerless in the hands of nature, and nature is powerless in the hands of man.

        The first two dream sequences show "I" as a little boy establishing a relationship with nature. In "Sunshine Through the Rain," the little boy is told by his mother not to venture into the forest because on days after it rains the foxes hold wedding ceremonies and do not like to be observed by humans. He decides to defy his mother and spies on the bestial wedding procession. Upon being discovered, he flees back to his mother's house, and she hands him a knife with the choice of committing suicide or asking the foxes for forgiveness. With this experience, the little boy learns to respect nature. In "The Peach Orchard," the little boy follows a "doll" to the family's peach orchard. He discovers that the nature "spirits" of the trees are unset because his family cut the trees. The little boy assures the "spirits" that it was not of his doing, and they allow one small sapling to bloom. Through this encounter, he learns that preserving nature is necessary for future generations.

        In "The Blizzard," Kurosawa demonstrates how man is truly at the mercy of Mother Nature. A group of mountain climbers become completely blinded and disoriented by the blizzard, so they could not tell that their campsite and safe haven was only a few feet away. In "The Tunnel," Kurosawa illustrates the effects of war on individuals and humanity as a whole. In "Crows," a museum visitor enters into Van Gogh's paintings. The museum patron delights in the fact the Van Gogh could become "one" with nature by capturing fleeting moments in his paintings.

        Kurosawa shows how frail nature really is with two episodes concerning nuclear holocaust, "Mount Fuji in Red" and "The Weeping Demon." Possibly, these episodes could serve as a reminder of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in World War II, and the world has seen the devastation and long lasting effects on nature by one act of a powerful nation. He emphasizes that with one nuclear act, man can wipe out all of nature, or humanity can destroy nature slowly with pollution, etc. In "Mount Fuji in Red" and "The Weeping Demon," Kurosawa forewarns his viewers of the impending doom if humanity does not do something to change how they are destroying the earth and each other.

        In "Village of the Windmills," a traveler happens upon a village that has no modern conveniences and respects nature. With this dream sequence, Kurosawa explains that man and nature can live in harmony. In the last segment, Kurosawa leaves his audience with a glimpse of hope by suggesting that if man learns to live in harmony with nature that we can save ourselves from destruction and live to a ripe old age.

Jackie Hawes

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