Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

I Was Born, But... (1932)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

I Was Born, But... (1932, Jp.) (aka Otona no miru ehon - Umarete wa mita keredo)

In director Yasujiro Ozu's silent film classic - a poignant dramatic comedy about childhood perspectives (about class roles and social hierarchy), set in suburban Tokyo, Japan in the early 1930s:

  • a tale about a lower middle-class Japanese family, led by office manager-clerk husband Kennesuke Yoshi (Tatsuo Saito) and housewife Haha (Mitsuko Yoshikawa), with two young school-aged sons: the older one Ryoichi (Hideo Sugawara) and Keiji (Tomio Aoki) who were often bullied by other neighborhood boys in their new surroundings, but then overcame and became the top alpha-males among their fellow classmates
  • the pivotal scene of the two sons at the home of their father's wealthy industrialist boss Juuyaku or "Iwasaki" (Takeshi Sakamoto) where in his mansion, they were invited to view the projection of an amateur movie reel depicting their father as foolish, when he was debased and demeaned at work, made clownish funny faces and tried to amuse his boss; everyone in the audience - except the boys - laughed
  • in reaction to the film, the boys lost confidence in their father and stubbornly went on a brief hunger strike (refusing to eat their noodles in protest); they felt that their subservient father shouldn't be kowtowing and always pleasing his boss because of his lowly social and financial status, and that society's hierarchy should be based rather on ability, strength and toughness
  • Yoshi felt ashamed and resigned to his limited working-man's life - and was tempted to begin drinking; the film's most dramatic image was of the despairing father, who grabbed a liquor bottle and leaned against a doorframe near his wife - contemplating his lowly despair ("I give up. I need a drink...Will they lead the same sorry lives we have?"), but then wishing for and affirming personal dignity for them as they slept: "Don't become miserable apple-polishers like me, boys"
Despairing Father with Liquor Bottle: "I need a drink"
Youths Eating Riceballs with Father
  • in the conclusion the next morning, the youths ate rice balls for breakfast shared with their father; as they walked together, the schoolboys even encouraged their father to acknowledge his boss, waiting at his chauffeured car at a train crossing: "You better go say good morning to him, Dad" - their father accepted a ride to work
  • the two boys had come to accept injustices in the world and realize that their father's place in the regimented social strata was not enjoyable but understandable, and that his behavior (of playing up to the boss who was ranked higher) was justified because it furthered their own lives (he had earlier argued why he worked for the boss: "If he didn't pay me, you couldn't go to school. You couldn't eat"); they had gained new respect for him

Two Sons: Ryoichi and Keiji

Amateur Movie That Made Fun of the Boys' Father, and Embarrassed the Two Boys

Boys' Newfound Respect for Father


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