CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd:
Crafted with measure, told with composure & steered by a strong lead showcase, Harakiri is a tale of honour, morals & all things bushido that takes its time to set up the premise, and then slowly & steadily unravels & escalates into a fierce conflict that lays bare the hypocrisy of the feudal system that emerged during that era.
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi, this is my first stint with his works and the sublime control over many aspects that he exhibits is impressive. His direction takes a very calculated approach to bring the script to life, and the interest only magnifies as new details surface until it reaches its boiling point with a finale that's brutal yet heartbreaking.
Themes of honour, morals, injustice, poverty & desperation drive the narrative but the film sure gets an additional facelift from its era-appropriate set pieces, crisp camerawork, controlled editing, gradual pacing & fitting music, all of which work in tandem to immerse us more into the brewing conflict. The actors play their part well too with Tatsuya Nakadai stealing the show, and the interplay between them all is engaging throughout.
On an overall scale, Harakiri does live up to its hype for the most part, and is one of Japanese cinema's most essential works. Kobayashi's careful direction gradually escalates the drama while Shinobu Hashimoto's script celebrates the honour of a samurai but is also critical of the emerging feudal system of the said era, showing their virtues to be a facade. An ethically & morally complex period piece, Harakiri is definitely worth your time & money.