I Live in Fear
(Review from A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune: 40 Films Starring Japan's Greatest Actor)
Director: Akira Kurosawa. Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni. Photography: Asakazu Nakai. Music: Fumio Hayasaka. Co-stars:Takashi Shimura, Chieko Higashiyama, Eiko Miyoshi, Haruko Togo, Masao Shimizu, Yutaka Sada, Noriko Sengoku, Minoru Chiaki, Kyoko Aoyama, Akemi Negishi, Kichijiro Ueda.
For what must certainly be his most unusual role, Mifune at the age of 35 was cast against type by Kurosawa to play Kiichi Nakajima, an aging foundry owner determined to liquidate his holdings and take his entire family to Brazil in order to avoid what he sees as the looming threat of nuclear disaster. His children, heirs to his fortune and the active operators of the family business, take him to family court and try to have him declared incompetent in order to protect their own livelihood. They eventually succeed in driving the old man mad.
Though Kurosawa's casting of his rugged young leading man seemed an outrageously daring move, the director wanted in is protagonist the determined ferocity that Mifune was so adept at displaying. Although a considerable amount of greasepaint and hairspray are required to make him look old, he performs splendidly. His body is bent with age, his gait disjointed, and the old man's broken spirit is reflected in physical terms. Kurosawa has written an unusual range of emotions into this complicated character, and Mifune handles the assignment impressively. As an old-fashioned Japanese patriarch he is willful and contradictory, at one moment high-handed and tyrannical and at the next groveling childishly for sympathy. He is consumed with fear and rage, and yet is kindly and paternal toward his employees and fiercely protective of his grandchildren. In a role that could easily have slipped into caricature in the hands of a lesser actor Mifune gives a deeply felt and finely nuanced performance.