Life review | Movie – Empire

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London, 1953. Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a stiff-lipped accountant who works to a meticulous routine. Faced with a devastating terminal medical diagnosis, the normally reserved man learns to live his life again – and find meaning before it’s too late.

In 1952, legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa found himself in an unusually thoughtful mood. Sandwiched between his samurai epics Rashomon and Seven Samurai, Ikiru saw the Japanese master explore old age, mortality, and empathy with a low-key tale of a terminally ill bureaucrat who makes a last-minute attempt to grab life with both hands (inspired, in part, by the short story of Tolstoy The death of Ivan Ilyich). It takes a brave filmmaker to remake a masterpiece, but South African director Oliver Hermanus has done something that builds and evolves the original. It transfers incredibly well.

The screenplay, beautifully adapted by the Anglo-Japanese novelist Kazuo Ishigurō, finds graceful parallels in post-war Britain and Japan, and the two nations’ shared penchants for conservatism and bureaucracy, the kind that stifles spirits and stifles aspirations. (Where the first film was a contemporary setting, it’s a period piece.) Here, Takashi Shimura’s Kanji Watanabe becomes Mr Williams, played by Bill Nighy in one of the most remarkable and restrained performances of his career, as he faces a terminal diagnosis and grapples with what it means to live, before it’s too late.

The movie craft featured here is uniformly excellent.

It’s beautifully executed by Hermanus, whose carefully considered, smooth-paced classic cinematography recalls the modernism of David Lean or Carol Reed; it is rare for a color film to be so black and white. The film craft presented here is uniformly excellent – ​​credit, in particular, has to go to Jamie D. Ramsay’s rich cinematography, Sandy Powell’s beautiful costumes, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s decent music and the angular production design by Helen Scott.

But really, that’s the whole Nighy show. Face of a statue, he subtly translates the weight of time and death that weighs on him in meticulous expressions and majestic philosophers. He plays older and weaker than his real age but is totally convincing. He is also the very image of an English gentleman; Nighy is no stranger to a well-tailored three-piece, of course, but in Powell’s suit he’s particularly dapper here, which completely sells the introspection out of character, the ticking of mortality impressive his wool scrupulously cut. “I started looking around a bit,” Nighy says at one point; you have the impression that we will want to look around Living as long as Ikiru.

Truly something: a rare remake that only augments and enriches the original. For Bill Nighy, meanwhile, it feels like the role of a lifetime in every way.

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