The Idiot (Hakuchi) is a feature film directed by the famous Akira Kurosawa. It was released in 1951 and is actually based on a novel called The Idiot. The novel was originally written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian novelist who is considered to be one of the greatest prose writers in Russian literature. His novels all tend to explore human psychology as well as issues surrounding politics and social reform. Kurosawa took Dostoevsky’s famous novel and put it into Japanese culture.
The story of The Idiot is a difficult story to follow, both in the original novel and in any adaptations that it has taken. In this version, it is the story of Kinji Kameda. In Dostoyevsky’s novel he is known as Prince Myshkin. Kameda has been living in an insane asylum in Okinawa and is finally on his way home. During the trip, he meets Akama, a sturdy, no-nonsense type of man. The two become friends, in a strange way, and Kameda learns that Akama is in love with a woman named Taeko. A woman named Ayako is in love with Kameda, and Kameda believes himself to be in love with both women! Eventually the two men, Kameda and Akama, end up fighting over Taeko. Akama ends up stabbing her, killing her almost instantly. The movie then ends with the two of them going insane.
The movie differs from the book in the ending. In the ending of the novel, the characters of Akama and Kameda do not go insane together. This has caused some debate on which ending is better, the movie version or the original book. Literary types tend to prefer the book while movie buffs seem to like the movie.
Kurosawa originally planned on the film being released in two separate movies with a total running time of 265 minutes. The studio executives, however, disagreed with this. They showed the movie in its entirety to a test audience and decided to cut it shorter when the reviews were not good. The studio lopped 100 minutes off of the movie, making the current film 166 minutes. It is currently believed that the rest of the film is no longer available. Whether the studio burned it or whether it is just sitting in a storeroom gathering dust, no one knows, and nobody has been able to find any trace of it.
There is a story that says that when Kurosawa rejoined the production company, Shochiku studio, over forty years later, he searched for the lost pieces of the film. Rumor has it that he never found it. Fans of the movie would love to see a directors cut appear, showing the movie in its entirety, but it has not happened yet. It is believed that the original movie delves deeper into the past of each of the characters, which may have made the movie much less confusing to watch and much easier to understand and enjoy.