Directed by Tokuzô Tanaka
Written by Seiji Hoshikawa
Cast:Raizô Ichikawa,Kobuse Takuma,Kaoru Yachigusa, Shiho Fujimura, Ichirô Nakatani and Akihisa Toda
A noble samurai takes the blame willingly up for a murder then goes into exile for the sake of his clan. But, once he returns to his clan, he finds his life falling apart and betrayed by his former clan.
Takuma’s fall from grace is more than a tragedy for him. After his fall, he sees the world anew. The scales truly fall from his eyes and the scales in question here honor and principle. His peers do not replicate Takuma’s commitment to honor and principle. Takuma realizes the world that he was part of values status over honor and principle. Takuma becomes the victim of his society’s hypocrisy.
Nearly all of the samurais here are a sycophantic bunch. The other samurais are more concerned with following a form of selfish honor that protects their status and pride, not the truth or justice.
The Betrayal is quite the oppressive jidaigeki film. Its world causes you to wonder if karma even exists. Injustice is on every corner. With the true lost, Takuma’s life is a neverending cycle of suffering and condemnation. Few people express any sympathy for Takuma. The two women that love Takuma end up victims as well. The Betrayal is relentless with its grinding pessimism. The heavy nihilistic overtones makes this more a revenge fantasy come to life.
The more Takuma ronin-like qualities he acquires, the more he changes from the first time we see him. Takuma is almost like a hero torn from a world with clear views of what is moral and just thrown into a world which has no care for what is moral and just. The visible changes that the harshness of the world creates in Takuma put into perspective just how character-driven the narrative is.
The character development inherent to the narrative is what makes it so compelling. Takuma’s response to the overbearing crisis is a great display of heroism. Takuma’s heroism doesn’t manifest itself in the form of an austere stoicism,but rather there is much vulnerability to it all. Takuma remains uncertain about the future as his life seemingly gets worse. The very final scene goes on to reflects this uncertainty. Takuma fights for justice around him even though the world had dealt him great injustice. It’s a fierce test of willpower as nearly every attempts fails or brings more misfortune. A test of willpower that persists throughout Takuma’s journey. So, the finale feels like a natural culmination of Takuma putting his willpower to the test despite how excessive it becomes.
The Betrayal’s dazzling finale stands the test of time for its elaborate showcase of fine choreography. Ladders and carts are participants as well. It is a grand finale that has Takuma fight for a struggle against a seemingly endless horde. Takuma absorbs abuse to the point that you start to question if he is a man or an animal. Even with Takuma’s ability to be a one-man army, you can feel his vulnerability. As exhaustion starts taking its toll on Takuma, but yet every swipe from his sword remains firm and strong. Takuma’s resilience is a great testament of how far reaching his willpower can be. Takuma’s ”final stand” in spite of being a herculean effort that pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable logically. It ends up being a tour de force of anti-nihilism in action! It’s a total triumph of the will against the all-consuming nihilism presented here. While it is at odds with the nonstop bleak attitudes and overtones of the movie, it feels like the culmination of Takuma’s never say die spirit coming to fruition. Or as he says in his own words: ”Don’t let your fate crush you”.
The Betrayal is a deceptively anti-nihilistic picture that reminds us of the sheer power of willpower against the cold injustice of the world.