Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Harakiri” is a powerful, masterfully crafted, and thematically rich blend of samurai period piece, drama, social commentary, and revenge thriller that explores topics such as morality, honor, justice, revenge, poverty, social masks, hypocrisy, society, classism, tradition, survival, identity, family, empathy, and the human condition. It´s fascinating that one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved samurai films of all time is actually an uncompromising deconstruction of the samurai code, honor, and self-image.
The film has a brilliant story structure (the use of flashbacks is superb) and a captivating story full of profound dialogues, emotional depth, and surprising but believable twists and turns. How we slowly but surely learn more and more about our protagonist, his plan, and his motivations is just fantastic storytelling. I went in completely blind and I needed some time to figure out what this movie is actually about, but eventually everything fits together perfectly. And personally, I just love the commentary on Japanese culture, tradition, and society.
Furthermore, “Harakiri” is one of the best-looking black and white films I have ever seen. Cinematography, blocking, lighting, and set design are all stunning. I couldn´t look away for a moment. Especially the fighting scenes at the end of the film are phenomenally choreographed, framed, and filmed. After finishing the movie, I watched them again several times. The score is also great and fits the mood perfectly.
The acting is also topnotch, the standout clearly being Tatsuya Nakadai. His screen presence, charisma, body language, and voice are intimidating, mesmerizing, and just command your attention. His intensity rivals that of my favorite Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune, and that is high praise. Nakadai carries the film with ease.
“Harakiri” definitely lived up to the hype. It´s one of Japanese cinema´s crown jewels and is now my second-favorite samurai film (“Seven Samurai” being number one, of course).