Dreams (1990 film)

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Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Ishirō Honda
Produced by Allan H. Liebert
Hisao Kurosawa
Mike Y. Inoue
Seikichi Iizumi
Steven Spielberg
Written by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Akira Terao
Martin Scorsese
Mitsunori Isaki
Chishu Ryu
Mieko Harada
Music by Shinichirô Ikebe
Cinematography Takao Saito
Shôji Ueda
Edited by Tome Minami
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • May 11, 1990 (1990-05-11)
Running time 119 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget $12,000,000

Dreams ( Yume?, aka Akira Kurosawa's Dreams) is a 1990 magical realism film based on actual dreams of the film's director, Akira Kurosawa at different stages of his life. The film is more imagery than dialogue. The film was screened out of competition at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


Sunshine Through The Rain[edit]

There is an old legend in Japan that states that when the sun is shining through the rain, the kitsune (foxes) have their weddings (this is a common theme globally – see sunshower). In this first dream, a boy defies the wish of a woman, possibly his mother, to remain at home during a day with such weather. From behind a large tree in the nearby forest, he witnesses the slow wedding procession of the kitsune. Unfortunately, he is spotted by the foxes and runs. When he tries to return home, the same woman says that a fox had come by the house, leaving behind a tantō knife. The woman gives the knife to the boy, implying that he must commit suicide. The woman asks the boy to go and beg forgiveness from the foxes, although they are known to be unforgiving, refusing to let him in unless he does so. The boy sets off into the mountains, towards the place under the rainbow in search for the kitsune's home.

The Peach Orchard[edit]

Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival, traditionally takes place in spring when the peach blossoms are in full bloom. The dolls that go on display at this time, they say, are representative of the peach trees and their pink blossoms. One boy's family, however, has chopped down their peach orchard, so the boy feels a sense of loss during this year's festival. After being scolded by his older sister the boy spots a small girl running out the front door. He follows her to the now-treeless orchard, where the dolls from his sister's collection have come to life and are standing before him on the slopes of the orchard. The living dolls, revealing themselves to be the spirits of the peach trees, berate the boy about chopping down the precious trees. But after realizing how much he loved the blossoms, they agree to give him one last glance at the peach trees by way of a slow and beautiful dance to Etenraku. After they disappear the boy finds the small girl walking among the treeless orchard before seeing a single peach tree sprouting in her place.

The Blizzard[edit]

A group of four mountaineers struggle up a mountain path during a horrendous blizzard. It has been snowing for three days and the men are dispirited and ready to give up. One by one they stop walking, giving in to the snow and sure death. The leader endeavors to push on, but he too, stops in the snow. A strange woman (possibly the Yuki-onna of Japanese myth) appears out of nowhere and attempts to lure the last conscious man to his death - give in to the snow and the storm, she urges him on, in to reverie, in to sleep, in to certain death. But finding some heart, deep within, he shakes off his stupor and her entreaties, to discover that the storm has abated, and that their camp is only a few feet away.

The Tunnel[edit]

A discharged Japanese company commander is walking down a deserted road at dusk, on his way back home from fighting in the Second World War. He comes to a large concrete pedestrian tunnel that seems to go on forever into the darkness. Suddenly, an angry, almost demonic-looking anti-tank dog (strapped with explosives) runs out of the tunnel, barking and snarling. The dog herds him into the tunnel. The commander walks hesitatingly into its darkness. He comes out the other side, only to witness the horrific yūrei (ghost) of one of his soldiers, Private Noguchi, who had died severely wounded in the commander's arms. Noguchi's face is light blue with blackened eyes, signifying that he is dead.

The soldier seems not to believe that he is gone. Noguchi has appeared because his parents' house is visible in a nearby mountainside, a light in the darkness left on for his return. He is heartbroken, knowing he cannot see them again, even while he remains respectful to the commander who led him to his death. Following the commander's wish that he accept his fate Noguchi returns to the tunnel.

Just when the commander thinks he's seen the worst, his entire third platoon, led by a young lieutenant brandishing an officer's sword, marches out of the tunnel. They come to a halt and present arms, saluting the commander. Their faces too are colored blue, for they were all annihilated in a single action. The commander searches for words to tell them that they are dead, and says that he himself is to blame for sending them into a futile battle. They stand mute in reply. The commander orders them to turn about face, and salutes them in a farewell as they march back into the tunnel. Collapsing in grief, the commander is quickly brought back to his feet by the reappearance of the hellish dog.


A brilliantly colored vignette featuring director Martin Scorsese as Vincent van Gogh. An art student (a character wearing Kurosawa's trademark hat who provides the POV for the rest of the film) finds himself inside the vibrant and sometimes chaotic world of Van Gogh's artwork, where he meets the artist in a field and converses with him. The student loses track of the artist (who is missing an ear and nearing the end of his life) and travels through other works trying to find him. Van Gogh's painting Wheat Field with Crows is an important element in this dream. This Segment features Prelude No. 15 in D-flat major ("Raindrop") by Chopin. The visual effects for this particular segment were provided by George Lucas and his special effects group Industrial Light & Magic.

This is the only segment where the characters do not speak Japanese.

Mount Fuji in Red[edit]

A large nuclear power plant near Mount Fuji has begun to melt down; its six reactors explode one by one. The breaches fill the sky with hellish red fumes and send millions of Japanese citizens fleeing in terror towards the ocean. After an unspecified amount of time, two men, a woman, and her two small children are seen alone, left behind on land in broad daylight. Behind them is the sea. The older man, who is dressed in a business suit, explains to the younger man that the rest have drowned themselves in the ocean. He then says that the several colours of the clouds billowing across the now rubbish-strewn, post-apocalyptic landscape signify different radioactive isotopes; according to him, red signifies plutonium-239, a tenth of a microgram of which is enough to cause cancer. He elaborates on how other released isotopes cause leukemia (strontium-90) and birth defects (cesium-137) before wondering at the foolish futility of colour-coding radioactive gases of such lethality.

The woman, hearing these descriptions, recoils in horror before angrily cursing those responsible and the pre-disaster assurances of safety they had given. The suited man then displays contrition, suggesting that he is in part responsible for the disaster. The other man, dressed casually, watches the multicoloured radioactive clouds advance upon them. When he turns back towards the others at the shore, he sees the woman weeping: the suit-clad man has leaped to his death. A cloud of red dust reaches them, causing the mother to shrink back in terror. The remaining man attempts to shield the mother and her children by using his jacket to feebly fan away the now-incessant radioactive billows.

The Weeping Demon[edit]

A man finds himself wandering around a misty, bleak mountainous terrain. He meets a strange oni-like man, who is actually a mutated human with one horn. The "demon" explains that there had been a nuclear holocaust which resulted in the loss of nature and animals, enormous dandelions and humans sprouting horns, which cause them so much agony that you can hear them howling during the night, but, according to the demon, they can't die, which makes their agony even worse. This is actually a post-apocalyptic retelling of a classic Buddhist fable of the same name.

Village of the Watermills[edit]

Watermills in the Daio Wasabi farm

A young man finds himself entering a peaceful, stream-laden village. The traveller meets an old, wise man who is fixing a broken watermill wheel. The elder explains that the people of his village decided long ago to forsake the polluting influence of modern technology and return to a happier, cleaner era of society. They have chosen spiritual health over convenience, and the traveller is surprised but intrigued by this notion.

At the end of the sequence (and the film), a funeral procession for an old woman takes place in the village, which instead of mourning, the people celebrate joyfully as the proper end to a good life. This segment was filmed at the Daio Wasabi farm in the Nagano Prefecture. The film ends with a haunting, melancholic excerpt from "In the Village", part of the Caucasian Sketches, Suite No. 1 by the Russian composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.



The film received mixed reviews, earning a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 55%.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Dreams". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-08. 

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