2002 filmsDramasForeign FilmGuest ReviewsJapanesemovies of the 2000s

Damian Lahey on ‘The Sea is Watching’ (2002)

review by Damian Lahey

It’s day three of our series of reviews from filmmaker Damian K. Lahey.  Today he brings news of a Japanese movie that’s little scene but much loved.  

Read on!!

This one stared back at me from the video store shelf for quite some time. I thought it was going to be boring so I put off watching it. I am eternally grateful I decided to give this one a shot as this is a truly beautiful and soulful film.

Based on an un-produced screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, ‘The Sea Is Watching’ is a tragic love story about a prostitute who falls in love with a disgraced and wounded samurai the brothel has taken in. Obviously, their relationship is doomed from the start and the journey is a tender and heart breaking one. Director Kei Kumai does justice both to Kurosawa and celebrated Japanese novelist Shugoro Yamamoto whose novels the story is based on.

Kazuo Okuhara’s painterly compositions are breathtaking and staged and composed with masterly precision. They’re not organic but instead set up almost as individual pieces of art. They are infused with an emotional depth that really enhances the narrative. Very lovely.

The film explores class and social position and exposes the hypocrisies of the caste system. Love, as we all know, has little care for class or social position but is too often compromised because of these things. Everyone in their lives has a relationship like this and Kumai and Kurosawa’s approach to this is a strangely calm and fatalist one. People may endure great pain and loss in their lives but can still find joy and fulfillment in the simple tasks of their day to day lives. It’s reassuring to know that on his last project Kurosawa’s belief in humanity was still as strong as ever.


Directed by Kei Kumai
Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Kei Kumai, and Shûgorô Yamamoto
Starring Misa Shimizu, Nagiko TônoMasatoshi NagaseHidetaka Yoshioka, and Miho Tsumiki
Produced by Kôshirô Andô , Sunobu Horigome, Haruyuki Machida, Kôichi Miyagawa, Yûji Oda, Naoto Sarukawa, Hajime Satomi,
Shigehiro Toriyama, and Hirotake Yoda
Music by Teizô Matsumura
Cinematography by Kazuo Okuhara
Edited by Osamu Inoue