THE TOWN―its denizens like to call it that―is little more than an ugly array of sheet metal and tar paper shacks thrown together on ground closely resembling the city dump. Nevertheless, despite its appearance, the community would seem to be akind of dreamland for its inhabitants who, albeit their hand-to-mouth existence, seek happiness in their own strange and varied ways. First, there is the woman who feverishly prays that her feebleminded son will be cured: The boy, an adult, spends his waking hours either drawing pictures of or pretending he is operating streetcars. He is never cured. A low-salaried white-collar worker subject to frequent spasms seems doubly miserable living with a domineering, totally ill-mannered wife. The never separate. A pair of day-laborors and their wives who live next door to one another go on nightly binges, swap wives when the mood strikes them. They never reform. Obviously impotent, an obese brush-maker has for his wife the best-looking woman in the community, now pregnant, a woman who has borne an assortment of children by the majority of men in the area. The children never find out the brush-maker is not their real father. A fifteen-year-old forced to support her unemployed uncle and ailing mother is raped by her uncle, gets pregnant, stabs a boy she loves, planning she will then commit suicide and be with him in the hereafter. The boy doesn’t die and she doesn’t commit suicide. Fortunately though, as a result of the incident, the uncle runs away. Her mother never finds out whose child it is, and we never find out whether or not she gets an abortion. A beggar and his little boy who live in a abandoned automobile spend their time dreaming about the magnificent home they will some day build. The boy dies as a result of his father’s stupidity. Their dream never comes true. A former businessman who has sunk to rag-picking and has outwardly lost all sense of emotion through witnessing his wife’s adultery is paid a belated visit by his estranged spouse. Despite her apologies and supplications he never forgives her. The oldest and wisest man in the community is so kind he refuses to prosecute a burglar even when the felon admits his guilt, and so clever he is able to persuade another senior citizen from killing himself. The one man who would appear capable of living elsewhere, he never leaves the shanty-town to which he seems permanently attached.
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«Zum dritten Mal taucht der Regisseur von Engel der Verlorenen und Nachtasyl hinab in die Niederungen und Slums ausufernder Gigantenstädte. Sein Leitstern: Auch Dostojewski habe die Augen vor dem Leid nicht verschlossen. Was Kurosawa zwischen Wellblechhütten, Autowracks und Schutthalden entdeckt und besingt, sind Erniedrigte und Chancenlose: die weggeworfenen, vergessenen, in den Wahnsinn oder ins Groteske getriebenen Existenzen des japanischen Wirtschaftswunders. Dodes’ka-den, ein Film, den Nippons Kritik der 1960er Jahre nicht wahrhaben und wahrnehmen will, eine verrückte, zwischen Expressionismus, Melo und Kabarett taumelnde ‹Collage›: Trümmerhaufen aus Episoden und Handlungssplittern, absurden Einaktern, Kyogen-Einlagen, sentimentalen Kapitelfetzen, Vaudeville-Schnipseln und traurigen, tragischen Abfallsdramen des Lebens, in denen auch die Farben ausser Rand und Band geraten sind. Die Elendsviertel schillern wie Chemieabwässer, der Boden oszilliert, die Schatten im Gesicht des sterbenden Jungen leuchten grün.» (Harry Tomicek, Programmheft Österreich. Filmmuseum)