Women in the Films of Kurosawa, 1940-1970
The Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century brought little change from women’s previous place in society, save for the fact that a woman could no longer be immediately put to death for adultery.
Over a 30-year period of filmmaking, Kurosawa’s relationship with women in his films, just like Japan’s relationship with women in its society, changed dramatically—just as it should have.
In his earlier work, Kurosawa often uses crying to illustrate an inescapable femininity. While Japanese men are off fighting World War II, as with many countries, women were left to work in the factories.
Kurosawa walked a fine line in his treatment and portrayal of women in his films, and he didn’t always walk it without stumbling. It’s easy, at first, to dismiss Kurosawa’s women as frivolous pawns or obstacles for men—because they are sometimes exactly that.