The Lower Depths (1957 film)

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The Lower Depths
DVD cover image
Directed byAkira Kurosawa
Produced byAkira Kurosawa[1]
Screenplay by
Based onThe Lower Depths
by Maxim Gorky
Music byMasaru Sato[1]
CinematographyKazuo Yamasaki[1]
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 17 September 1957 (1957-09-17) (Japan)
Running time
124 minutes[1]

The Lower Depths (どん底, Donzoko) is a 1957 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa, based on the play The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky.[1] The setting was changed for the film from late 19th century Russia to Edo-period Japan.


In a run-down Edo tenement, an elderly man (Rokubei) and his bitter wife (Osugi) rent out rooms and beds to the poor. The tenants are gamblers, prostitutes, petty thieves and drunk layabouts, all struggling to survive. The landlady’s younger sister (Okayo) who helps the landlords with maintenance, brings in an old man (Kahei) and rents him a bed. Kahei quickly assumes the role of a mediator and grandfatherly figure, though there is an air of mystery about him and some of the tenants suspect his past is not unblemished.

Sutekichi, thief and self-appointed tenement leader, is having an affair with Osugi the landlady, though he is gradually shifting his attention to her sweet-tempered sister. Okayo thinks little of him, however, which frustrates Sutekichi and sours his relationship with Osugi. Jealous and vengeful, Osugi seeks to persuade Sutekichi to murder her husband so she can turn him over to the authorities. Sutekichi sees through her plot and refuses to take any part in the murder. The husband discovers the affair, gets into a fight with Sutekichi, and is saved only through Kahei’s intervention.

Slowly, Okayo begins to see the good in Sutekichi and warms to his advances. Rokubei and Osugi beat Okayo, prompting the tenants to break into their house to save her. Sutekichi is enraged to learn how Okayo was treated and, in the ensuing chaos, accidentally kills Rokubei, and is then blamed by Osugi for her husband's death. Rather than defend himself, the enraged Sutekichi claims that she had goaded him into doing it. Okayo now believes that they have used her to provide an excuse for the killing. She will now have nothing to do with Sutekichi. Kahei, whose testimony could potentially have cleared him, runs away to avoid having to testify, adding substance to the suspicions that he had something to hide. Sutekichi and Osugi are arrested.

Other subplots, some of a comic nature, involve the occupants of the tenement: an aging actor who has lost his ability to memorize lines; a craftsman who appears indifferent to the impending death of his ailing wife, yet becomes a broken man when she finally dies; a destitute who claims to be descended from a samurai family, only to have this claim refuted; and a group of partying drunks who seem to rejoice in the face of misfortune.



The Lower Depths received a roadshow theatrical release on September 17, 1957 by Toho.[1] It received general release in Japan on 1 October 1957.[1]

Toho produced an English-dubbed version, but its release is undetermined.[1] It was released by Brandon Films with English subtitles in the United States on 9 February 1962.[1]


In Japan, Isuzu Yamada won Kinema Junpo's award for Best Actress of the Year (for this film and Downtown and Throne of Blood).[1] Koji Mitsui won the award for Best Supporting Actor by (also for Crazy Society) and Best Actor for Toshiro Mifune (also for Downtown) by Mainichi Film Concours.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Galbraith IV 2008, p. 137.


  • Galbraith IV, Stuart (2008). The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 1461673747. Retrieved October 29, 2013.

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