The Quiet Duel (1949) | OBSCURE PICKS
The Quiet Duel is one of the earliest ventures handled by Akira Kurosawa. Takashi Shimura won the Mainichi Film Concours in the Best Actor category for his performance in the flick.
During World War II, young doctor Kyoji Fujisaki (Toshirô Mifune) cuts himself while operating on a patient Susumu Nakada (Kenjiro Uemura) in a field hospital. Once Nakada acknowledges the fact that he suffers from syphilis, Fujisaki chooses to check his blood which soon proves to be infected. After the end of the war, Dr Fujisaki is constrained to forget about a happy marriage with his beloved fiancé Misao Matsumoto (Miki Sanjô) and throws himself into an eddy of everyday duties…
“The structure and its makeshift climax is replete with artificiality”
This frequently endearing, yet heavily flawed film is one of Akira Kurosawa’s lesser-known and inferior entries which loses its impetus towards its forced denouement. Reportedly, censors for the American Occupation Forces made Kurosawa to modify the original, pessimistic synopsis so as not to intimidate people suffering from syphilis. This would account for the perplexity entailed by the screenplay’s incomprehensibly nebulous direction in the second part which nearly cloaks all upsides of the first one with a mantle of chaos.
The structure of The Quiet Duel and its makeshift climax is replete with artificiality as well as its unpredictability comes as a contrived stroke utilised to avert some sort of textural catastrophe, but it does not atone for no character development and vague crucial points in the writing. Despite indifferent upshot, one is capable of discerning Kurosawa’s endeavour to criticise Japanese militarism and its rigid moral code. Likewise, the deft acting by Mifune, Shimura and Uemura, the realistic portrayal of human condition of a medic, the primal concept, which I find exceedingly gripping, and last but not least, a lack of sentimentality so distinctive for successive opuses by Kurosawa slightly hoists its value and deters from a disaster. Notwithstanding, it ultimately becomes ineffective on account of its general awkwardness and traits of the first screenplay which satiate the yarn with slapdash.
The performance by Toshirô Mifune is pretty fine, but his role and impersonation in Drunken Angel (1948) was far better, just like the motion picture. Kenjiro Uemura plays well as egocentric Susumu Nakada, but once again, he might have been better in the part which contains more potential. Takashi Shimura personating the father of Dr Kyoji Fujisaki seems to be the best performer in the whole bunch, even though he rarely turns up on the screen. Noriko Sengoku is fine as an impulsive nurse, but at one point, once she embarks on crying, she looks somewhat unnatural.
The cinematography by Sôichi Aisaka is indubitably solid and provides the effort with a pertinent décor which auspiciously captures the beads of rain majestically dropping in a harmonious manner and the stark beauteousness of the panorama environing the characters. The soundtrack by Akira Ifukube is not extraordinary, but catchy with its exploitation of drums at the beginning and some accordion tunes towards the resolution.
If you are able to overlook its numerous flaws, The Quiet Duel might prove to be quite a pastime, but it does not appeal to me as a critical work owing to its sloppiness, a plethora of shortcomings and possible script’s corrections which genuinely sap the entire creation. It simply feels like a crude draft which needs a further elaboration to acquire some sort of uniqueness.
Verdict: 5/10 stars – not bad