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Ikiru is a Japanese film directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa in the late 1952. The film examines the life and struggles of Kanji Watanabe, a minor bureaucrat in Tokyo, and his quest for meaning of life. After being diagnosed with stomach cancer and having less than one year of living, Watanabe tries various ways to escape the reality. He goes to nightclubs until he finally comes to a change of mind after transforming his outlook through an encounter with a female subordinate called Toyo, who was seeking a signature for her resignation.
Kanji Watanabe is a middle-aged bureaucrat, who lives in the post-war Japan, heading the civil section in a city council, where he has worked for 30 years with a clean sheet of attendance. Virtually nothing stimulating occurs at his daily routine work where he is consumed. He embarks on getting rid of citizens’ complaints and excuses. The only motivation to live and work at the appeal body is the ambition to assert his place.
One day, Watanabe receives a staggering surprise when he learns that he has a stomach cancer. The diagnosis also reveals that he has less than 6 months to live. Unfortunately, in a bid to escape from this reality, Watanabe takes to the streets of Tokyo and gets drunk from one bar to the other, being completely hopeless about his life. One of the days, during his rounds in the nightclubs, he requests a song "Gondola no Uta" from the piano player, which he sings with so much sadness. With only a day spent in Tokyo’s nightlife, he comes to the realization that drinking is not the solution.
However, what becomes his intriguing change of heart and turning point in life is the encunter with Toyo, a subordinate female employee who was seeking signature for resignation. Attracted by her great love and enthusiasm for life, Watanabe tries to spend more time with her. In one of their meetings, he opens up to her concerning his intentions and asks her secret of love for life. Toyo reveals to him that she derives her happiness from her new job of making toys; it makes her feel connected to all the children in Japan and it gives her a sense of purpose in her life.
Watanabe is greatly inspired, realizing there is still time to do something to make a difference. In his remaining time, he dedicates his time and energy to fulfilling an achievement. This way, he is able to override the stagnating bureaucracy and even turns a cesspool infested with mosquitoes into a children’s playground. During his inner awakening, his co-workers show their amazement for his dramatic change of behaviour. Besides, they are even motivated to adopt the same attitude but, unfortunately, lack the courage to implement it.
The last brief moments of Watanabe’s life depict an iconic scene. In this scene, he is sited on the swing at the park, which he built, happy and at peace not only with himself but also with his life. The pinnacle of this excitement is the song "Gondola no Uta", which he sings at the end of this scene.
Reivich & Shatte’s Theory Application
Reivich & Shatte (2003) describe seven concepts named seven skills of resilience, which are aimed at making a person more resilient. Critically analysing the life of Watanabe, one would find instances of accurate fulfilment of Reivich & Shatte’s theory in the line of these concepts.
ABC (Adversity, Beliefs, Consequences)
The concept behind this is that one is what he thinks he is. It is our thoughts and beliefs rather than the events that cause our feelings and behaviours that dictate how we react towards life (Reivich & Shatte, 2003). The ABC model involves identifying adversities in life and using the difficulty to arrive at the beliefs that transform our outlook and self-perception. In the early moments of the movie, the omniscient narrator describes Watanabe as being dead for 25 years and as one living an inauthentic life. His identity is based upon his social role since he expresses no feeling or will. His life drifts along linear clock time. Monotony develops up to a point where every day looks exactly like the other one, and every new gesture is like the other (Reivich & Shatte).
However, after rediscovering his fate, he starts living authentically for the sake of his renewed short time. A good instance is when he discovers a proposal by Kuroe-Cho Women Association, which had been neglected, concerning draining a swampy area in a bid to create a playing ground for the children. He braces himself and gathers efforts to initiate the construction of the playground through the same bureaucratic city hall. His contentment with life and inner peace are evident when he sits at the park, admiring his work and happily singing a song ‘Life is so short. /Fall in love, dear maiden’’), which he earlier sang in the moment of despair. This scene wraps up the idea that although it might not always be possible to extend one’s life through curing a disease, it is possible to heal one’s spiritual wholeness. This statement concurs with Reivich and Shatté’s argument that we have to listen to our interpretations of adverse events and understand our thoughts when things go wrong in order to evaluate whether they are accurate.
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