Kagemusha, Brazil

This is without a doubt one of the best films by Akira Kurosawa.

In 1572, during the Sengoku Period (civil wars in Japan), Shingen Takeda is fatally wounded by a shot in the vicinity of the enemy's castle. Before he dies he demands that his advisers conceal his death. After burying Shingen Takeda in a lake, the clan leaders put a double in his place.

The Shingen lookalike is a marginal from a humble background. With some difficulty he learns to represent the replaced leader. It doesn't take long for the substitute to start enjoying the new life. Although he is kept under strict surveillance by those who know the truth, he enjoys the same privileges and prerogatives for all intents and purposes as Shingen Takeda.

The farce turns into tragedy at the moment when the look-alike reveals his true identity by taking a tumble trying to mount the dead leader's horse. He is expelled from the castle and the clan is led by a warlike heir to Shingen's position. But the new leader is not a shrewd, careful, and experienced warrior like Shingen. The result of the war he starts is disastrous.

The film ends more or less as it started. The new reckless leader finds death in the war as does the daring Shingen Takeda. But unlike his predecessor (who was shot when he approached the enemy castle unnecessarily) and the lookalike (who preserved peace while replacing Shingen) he causes total destruction of the clan he commands.

There is a subtle difference between the double and Shingen's conduct. The true leader put his own life at risk and tried to save his clan by keeping up appearances. His double causes the clan to be defeated by being discovered and replaced by a warrior unable to wait for the right moment for battle.

Kurosawa bridges the gap between reality (the death of the leader) and appearances (replacing him with the double) with the predominance of the oppressed ritualized context in which each person in the Takeda clan must play their social role within a fixed hierarchy, and without worrying about the final result of their conduct. The real tragedy, therefore, is not the death of Shingen or its replacement by the double, but the "life itself" that social relations acquire due to the perpetuation of the rite and the inevitability resulting from the hierarchy of society when the new leader declares war at the inappropriate time.

Why review Kagemusha? Because Brazil has become a simulacrum in which appearances have replaced reality to the point that my country is on the edge of the abyss.

Bolsonaro is a reckless leader whose authoritarian obsessions and genocidal ambitions begin to dominate society and run what remains of democratic institutions. Considered a genius by bankers and ministers of the Brazilian Supreme Court, the Kagemusha in the Ministry of Economy only managed to paralyze the economy, waste international reserves and transform the recession into an economic depression. With the help of Globo TV network, Sérgio Moro poses as a statesman as if he could replace the real political leader of national and international expression that he threw in prison to facilitate Bolsonaro’s election.

Akira Kurosawa’s film is set in the Japanese Medieval Age. But it deals with timeless issues, serious problems that Brazil is experiencing right now. Like the members of the Shingen Takeda clan, we are also being conditioned to reject reality (the country’s political, economic and diplomatic failure) to maintain the appearance of a democratic regime that began to be destroyed with the 2016 coup and which cannot be revitalized while Bolsonaro is in the presidency, the impostor who commands the Brazilian economy to follow neoliberal recipes, and Sérgio Moro go unpunished due to being protected by the owners of the Globo TV network.

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