Dodes’ka-Den (1971): Kurosawa Best Foreign Language Film Nominee

In this lesser known Akira Kurosawa film, a group of people who live in a Tokyo slum are dreaming their fantasies.

The film is an anthology of overlapping vignettes exploring the lives of various characters living in suburban shantytown atop a rubbish dump.

Based on a book by Shūgorō Yamamoto, it was Kurosawa’s first film in color.

The film title “Dodeska-den” are the playacting “words” uttered by the boy character to mimick the sound of his imaginary tram (trolley car) in motion.

It is not a commonly used onomatopoeic word in the Japanese vocabulary, but was invented by author Shūgorō Yamamoto in Kisetsu no nai machi [ja] (A Town Without Seasons).

The first to be introduced is the boy Roku-chan, who lives in a fantasy world in which he is a tram (trolley) driver. In his fantasy world, he drives his tram along a set route and schedule through the dump, reciting the refrain “Dodeska-den,” “clickety-clack,” mimicking the sound of his vehicle.

Dedicated to the fantasy,. Roku-chan is called “trolley fool” (densha baka) by locals and by children. His mother is concerned that Roku-chan is mentally-challenged.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Foreign Language Film

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner was Italian Vittorio`-9 De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.