Keiji comes running to his elder brother Ryoichi and tells him about the bullies. Ryoichi, a great son of a great father, stands up and assures his brother not to worry. Keiji trusts Ryoichi. They can handle the bullies, they are confident. The next morning their father walks with them half way to the school and then leaves for office. Keiji and Ryoichi, near the school gate, find the biggest boy amongst the bullies challenging them. They then look at each other, deciding with a nod what they should do. They run away and don’t attend the school that day.
Yasujiro Ozu’s ‘I Was Born But…’, a 1932 silent film, will remind you of your childhood, the challenges you faced as a child – winning some and losing some, the faith you had in someone great and the dream of becoming someone great. Children’s world comes in contact with the adult’s world. The innocent child doesn’t understand hierarchy or hypocrisy, though he understands power as he finds it in his world as well; power to not to be bullied, power to bully the bully, power to be the group leader.
How in the adult’s world dreams become unreal, fantasies die and realities are numbered, given a name, a social status and bit by bit life is compromised, is what we see in the film, but from the children’s point of view. Children are lively and so is the film. Its comical timing is fantastically perfect. Slowly with the shifts from this to that world, the tone changes, yet maintaining the rhythm throughout.
Understanding anything, anyone is a tough job, some fail to and some refuse to do it altogether. This film takes up this job and finishes it successfully, understanding the child’s dilemmas, beliefs, hopes and displeasure, understanding the adult’s demeanor and how they accept a denouement, understanding the familial ties and the need of tuning it, understanding the melodies of life and how it makes everyone laugh all the time.
An amazingly marvelous film, it must be watched by all those who want to feel the magic of cinema. ‘I Was Born But…’ is one of my favourite films of all time. It is introduced as ‘a picture book for grownups’ and rightly so. The fact that it’s a silent, black and white film doesn’t make it a difficult watch at any point rather this masterpiece flows so wonderfully that colour or sound seems redundant.
All you have to do now is to watch this film, appreciate and thank Yasujiro Ozu for making this superlative work of art.