August 8, 2013
The bombing of Hiroshima, falling as it does on the Feast of the Transfiguration, and having been the first wartime use of nuclear weapons, holds an ironic pride of place. But lest we forget, Nagasaki was bombed a few days later, with similar devastation. The event is dealt with in tender retrospect in Rhapsody in August, a late film in the oeuvre of the incomparable Akira Kurosawa. This is not, by far, his best film, nor is it my favorite. (That palm goes to Ikiru.) But it is a masterwork nonetheless, perhaps too talky and slow-paced for most audiences.
One moment in the film, however, is worth seeing the whole thing. At 16'20" the three children, who have been wandering modern Nagasaki looking for signs of the past (as their grandfather perished in the bombing) come upon something in the playground of a school. Silently turning to behold it, the girl holds out her hand and points, and then Kurosawa's indomitable and unblinking camera-eye slowly moves in on the melted relic of a jungle-gym, marked with a simple plaque bearing the moment at which it took its present form, surrounded by a small garden. A solo alto voice sings a mournful melody, as the children approach and instinctively remove their caps. It is a powerful image, one of many delivered by the master's hand in this "small" film on a big topic.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
Another image, and others from the film, can be seen at IMDB here.