In “Dersu Uzala” the director’s depicts the contours of a hypothetical civilization alternative to the one in which we all live in today. This civilization imagined by Kurosawa, could develop without the human pathological greed for power and profit and our mania to manipulate nature, life, other people and the world in general.

Dersu with his alternative sensibility based on mutuality with nature and respect for the world represents for Kurosawa the lost child of this possible civilization which tragically, for us all, didn’t become a reality.

On the level of the plot the film describes a friendship (based on mutual love for nature) between Dersu and a Russian scientist Arseniev who tries to learn from him the wisdom of grace and grace of wisdom, the absence of vanity, a humility vis-à-vis the otherness of the world, and spontaneous honesty without any posing. While destiny of Dersu is a tragic one – he became a victim of civilized predators (crooks of calculation of their interests and advantages regardless of anything else), destiny of Arseniev is, in essence, even a more horrifying one. Of course, he made a professional career, but as a typical scientist inside the civilization of calculation and domination he cannot influence how the results of his scientific research are used by the decision-makers. So, his love for nature is doomed to be a pure idealism – by admiring the natural world he unintentionally helps to subdue it (Soviet domineering and manipulative position regarding nature is continuation of the pre-Soviet and pretty identical with the Western one, especially in 21st century).

Kurosawa’s “Dersu Uzala” is a precious present to all those who love and respect nature and the otherness of the world and life. The film is very far from being a sentimental beautification of a nature that for Kurosawa is real, stubborn and tough, and will respond adequately to abuses on part of human megalomania and greed. This film can very well serve as a cinematic textbook for International Green Movement in the epoch of fossil fuel expansion, hydraulic fracking, tar sands oil, global warming and triumphant destruction of the environment. Dersu is our alternative and better self.

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Arseniev who became Dersu’s real friend (without mixing of identities and with respect for one another’s otherness) was sent to Siberia by Tsar’s government for the purpose of researching possibilities of developing it industrially, financially and for military purposes. After the 1917 revolution the Soviet government continued to use Arseniev in the same way.

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Arseniev and Dersu caught in a sudden storm rush to create shelter, to lodge for the night. Arseniev always remembered that during this very night Dersu, with his experience of living with nature, “saved his life”.

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When Dersu becomes too old, Arseniev invites him to live with his family, but Dersu couldn’t adapt to “life in the box”. Arseniev’s pre-adolescent son is touchingly good natured, but instrumental rationality will make him into a future specialist, without a correspondingly developed humanity as a part of him. Dersu calls him “a little captain” (Arseniev had the military rank of a captain when Dersu met him for the first time).

Posted an essay on April, 26 2011 –   Akira Kurosawa’s “Dersu Uzala” (1975) – A Monument to An Alternative Civilization by Acting-Out Politics