Film Micrœview #280: Dersu Uzala (1975)
03.31.2016 § Leave a comment
Almost Dr. Pepper.
I would like to ponder more the implications of Kurosawa, a Japanese director, making a film in the area of Russia where the two countries historically have conflicted.
The ending was impressively disconcerting. That Dersu dies by the hand of a man echoes the opening of Part II in which he reveals all his money was stolen. His strength is to empathize with men he may never meet, but the flip side is giving the benefit of the doubt to those he has. He is not simple or ignorant of evil in men, but does not search for it. I believe we are meant to question the narration of Capitan, the man who lives, and the man more similar to us the viewer from more advanced civilization when he declares the fears of Amba to be the delusions of a tired old man. Clearly Dersu was already dead to an extent when his sight failed him. His episode in town life is not completely bad. It is almost the definition of bittersweet. He understands that the presence of Capitan in his life is a gift, that he is lucky as a man of the wild to have had it, just as the gift of the gun Capitan gives him in the end is a truly thoughtful and right gift. And he gets some semblance of family again, the family that the West took from him via smallpox. But that he was murdered for the gun I think underscores that the gift could not be. Ultimately this is an amazing exploration of friendship across cultures, as well as its limits. It feels brutal and honest as well as genuinely heartwarming. There is something exceedingly off and awkward about the final scene and the cut into it, but I think it is perfect. So many unforgettable moments throughout, from shooting of the string on the bottle to the cutting of marsh grass to save their lives.