I Live in Fear

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I Live in Fear
Ikimono no kiroku poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAkira Kurosawa
Produced bySōjirō Motoki
Written byAkira Kurosawa
Shinobu Hashimoto
Fumio Hayasaka
Hideo Oguni
StarringToshiro Mifune
Takashi Shimura
Music byMasaru Sato
Fumio Hayasaka
Distributed byToho Company Ltd.
Release date
  • November 22, 1955 (1955-11-22)
Running time
103 minutes

I Live In Fear (生きものの記録, Ikimono no kiroku, also known as Record of a Living Being or What the Birds Knew) is a 1955 Japanese drama film directed by Akira Kurosawa, produced by Sōjirō Motoki, and written by Kurosawa with Shinobu Hashimoto, Fumio Hayasaka, and Hideo Oguni. The film stars Toshiro Mifune as an elderly factory owner so terrified of the prospect of a nuclear attack that he becomes determined to move his entire extended family to what he imagines is the safety of a farm in Brazil.

The film stars Kurosawa regulars Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. It is in black-and-white and runs 103 minutes. The film was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


Kiichi Nakajima (Toshiro Mifune), an elderly foundry owner convinced that Japan will be affected by an imminent nuclear war, resolves to move his family to safety in Brazil.[2] Nakajima's fervent wish is for his family to join him in escaping from Japan to the relative safety of South America. His family decides to have him ruled incompetent, and he is brought before a three-man tribunal, including Dr. Harada (Takashi Shimura), a Domestic Court counselor, for arbitration. Harada, a civil volunteer in the case, sympathizes with Nakajima's conviction. He points out that the fear of atomic and nuclear weapons is present in every citizen of Japan, and wonders aloud whether it is wrong to rule someone incompetent simply for being more worried than the average citizen. Eventually, the old man's irrational behavior prevents the court from taking his fears seriously, and he is found incompetent. Nakajima grows more and more obsessed with the idea of escaping Japan, eventually resulting in a tragic decision, once he is convinced it is the only way to save his loved ones. The film ends with the doctor pondering whether it may be more insane to ignore the nuclear threat than to take it too seriously.



Fumio Hayasaka

This was the last film that composer Fumio Hayasaka worked on before dying of tuberculosis in 1955. He had been Kurosawa's close friend since 1948 and had collaborated with him on several films. Hayasaka had, during the last decade of his life, a celebrated association with Kurosawa. The 1948 film Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi) was their first film together and later they worked on Rashomon. The director and composer collaborated to test “oppositional handling of music and performance” and, in his autobiography, Kurosawa would say that working with Hayasaka changed his views on how film music should be used; from then on, he viewed music as “counterpoint” to the image and not just an “accompaniment”.[3]

The film's English title I Live in Fear is taken from Shakespeare's play Cymbeline.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: I Live in Fear". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
  2. ^ Kaplan, Fred (2008-01-29). "I Live in Fear: What Kurosawa's forgotten film about the bomb captures about post-9/11 America". Slate.
  3. ^ Kurosawa, Akira. Something like an Autobiography, trans. Audie E. Bock (New York: Vintage, 1982), 191-198. Copyright 1982 by Akira Kurosawa. Printed in Perspectives on Akira Kurosawa, edited by James Goodwin, New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1994 James Goodwin.

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