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Film / No Regrets for Our Youth

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No Regrets for Our Youth is a 1946 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa.

Setsuko Hara stars as Yukie, daughter of Mr. Yugihara, a left-wing professor at Kyoto University in 1933. Yugihara is fired from his job due to his leftist views, which touches off a general strike by university students all across Japan. Among the leaders of the strike at Kyoto University are Noge and Itokawa, two students who are also suitors for Yukie.

The student strike is crushed by the increasingly oppresive hand of Japanese fascism. Yugihara responds to the course of events by leaving activism behind and becoming an ordinary middle-class businessman. Noge on the other hand redoubles his efforts as an activist and member of the underground anti-war left. Yukie responds to this by marrying Noge.

No Regrets for Our Youth was Kurosawa's fourth feature film and the first to be made without wartime censorship from the government of Imperial Japan. It is an ode to the anti-war left in Japan that resisted the militaristic Japanese government. It might also be a sort of apology from Kurosawa himself, as he got his start in filmmaking by making propaganda films for the Japanese government. Star Setsuko Hara is best remembered for her role in the Yasujiro Ozu masterpiece Tokyo Story.

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Tropes:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: He isn't a bad boy, exactly, but Noge's underground activism proves more attractive to Yukie than Itokawa's middle-class ordinariness.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The first part of the film is about fascist oppression in the early 1930s. Students even sing about the fascist boot coming down on Kyoto University.
  • Heroic BSoD: The death of his son and his family's ostracization send Noge's father into a state of near-catatonia. The vandalism of their rice paddies finally snaps him out of it.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: In the opening scene, Yukie and the students have gone for a walk and stop on a hilltop where they can see the campus. Noge says "Kyoto University! The garden of freedom, the glorious tower, Mecca for students!" Immediately afterwards the sound of gunfire from an army training exercise is heard.
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  • Kids Are Cruel: The children of Noge's village that jeer at Yukie as she goes to plant rice in the fields.
  • La Résistance: Although it's not clear exactly what Noge is doing to oppose Japanese fascism. Apparently the film was loosely inspired by the story of Hotsumi Ozaki, a Japanese communist who spied on behalf of the Soviet Union and was executed for treason in 1944.
  • Love Triangle: Yukie has to choose between Noge and Itokawa. She even arranges three flower blossoms in a bowl of water as a symbol of her dilemma.
  • Match Cut: From Yukie's hands on the floor as she begs Noge's parents to let her support them, to the teeth of two rakes in the barn, before Yukie and her mother-in-law pick them up.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Noge is a studious and serious young man who joins the anti-war underground Japanese left. Naturally, he wears glasses. Significantly, they are knocked off his face when he's arrested by State Sec.
  • Spinning Paper: The newspapers aren't actually spinning, but a series of newspaper headlines are used to convey the Kyoto University student revolt and how it is eventually crushed.
  • State Sec: Japanese police finally arrest Noge shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Talent Double: Notably, the hands that are shown playing the piano are not shown as being connected to Yukie.
  • Time Skip: Several, as the film jumps from 1933 and the student strike, to 1938 and Yukie's marriage to Noge, to 1941 and Noge's arrest, to 1945 and the end of the war.
  • Title Drop: Sort of. Noge says more than once that he has "no regrets for our life".
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Reference is made in the dialogue about 10 years having passed, but it's actually 12 years, since the film starts in 1933 and ends in 1945 after the surrender.
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