Tatsuya Nakadai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Hanshiro Tsugumo in Harakiri.
Tatsuya Nakadai plays a samurai, which is neither the first nor the last time, you'll see me writing this. Nakadai like his frequent onscreen opponent Toshiro Mifune, often played roles that potentially seem similair, Nakadai here plays a samurai which he would later do in Samurai Rebellion, The Sword of Doom, and in 62 as well with Sanjuro, just to name a few. Nakadai though does not deliver the same performance for any one of those films that I mentioned, nor does he do so here. We first see Nakadai in the film in what one what assume is in a terrible state, as his character Hanshiro Tsugumo requests the feudal Lord to allow him to commit the official act of suicide in his courtyard. Nakadai does not play Hanshiro as overtly depressed, in that he's not just this sad man making a request. There's something else going and Nakadai brilliantly reflects this with his performance. It does seem like a man with death on the mind, though not exactly as one might expect. As he says that he will be dying soon in his eyes one knows this to be, true as Nakadai reveals such a powerful conviction in them. Again though what it alludes to is made purposefully a mystery by the film as well as Nakadai's performance.
Nakadai is a fascinating enigma in these early scenes as Hanshiro first introduces his request to the lord. Nakadai commands each scene with a striking voice of someone who seems to be absolutely certain of his fate. It goes even more than that though as there is something in his voice that is almost otherworldly in his whole manner. The way he stares through the men, and the way he moves is though he is from some high plane of existence than the Lord. Nakadai is amazing in that he creates this peculiar state of his character in these scenes, as he speaks and acts with this certain detachment towards the world and the Lord, yet there is some emotional quality about. Nakadai is haunting as he seems to make Hanshiro almost some sort of spirit who has arrived at the gate. Hanshiro is told by the Lord another story of a samurai who made a similair request, which lead the lord's men to have the man forcefully commit suicide in an extremely painful way by making him use a bamboo knife while refusing to grant mercy. As Hanshiro is told this story though Nakadai portrays no loss in Hanshiro's reserve in the least, the conviction stands without question, and Hanshiro stays as something more than a man as he insists on the right of Harakiri.
Eventually when he takes to the courtyard to perform the rite Hanshiro requests assistance from the the men who were instrumental in the brutal treatment of that other samurai. All of the men claim to be sick, and Lord wishes for Hanshiro to proceed, but Hanshiro reveals that he was well aware of the other samurai's story even before the lord told him. We are then given a flashback to see Hanshiro some time ago as a samurai with a daughter to support, but no wars to fight so no Lord to support him, trying to make ends meat best he can. Nakadai presents a very different man in these scenes playing Hanshiro much more of an average enough guy. His voice actually far more relaxed as is his whole manner. Although his financial troubles are there Nakadai presents the man effectively as a man happy with the life he has, and just a likable man trying to make it through life with his daughter. This eventually turns to with his daughter, and her eventual husband and father to Hanshiro's grandson who just happens to be that samurai who had been forced to commit Harakiri before Hanshiro.
The hardships only continue to build up as there is no work for the unemployed samurai, and Hanshiro's grandson falls ill. Nakadai is excellent, as unlike the scenes set in the present, he takes a more straight forward approach which is fitting to Hanshiro who is just trying to live out his life in peace. Nakadai does well just only present Hanshiro as a genuine caring man and is incredibly moving in depicting Hanshiro's reactions to his growing misfortunes. Nakadai is especially affecting because that contentment and optimism of before just slowly seems to seep out of the man as things only become worse. Nakadai is heartbreaking as he shows that just everything that goes wrong so deeply wounds Hanshiro, and importantly though Nakadai presents this not as Hanshiro feeling sorry for himself, but rather a deep empathy for the three members of his family. Even with this hardship this man still does not seem to be that man telling the story, even when the body of his son-in-law is brought to his home. Nakadai portrays a man not filled with anything but a deep overwhelming sadness as well as this certain resignation as he sees the corpse mutilated. The flashbacks of that portion ends though as Hanshiro informs the Lord that soon afterwards his daughter and grandson died shortly after.
The mystery behind Hanshiro becomes shattered, but nothing is lost in terms of Nakadai's performance instead only new depths are found in what Nakadai has only shown. Nakadai does not actually alter his performance in the least at this point, nor should he as Hanshiro has been very much set on his path since he first entered the Lord's domain. What Nakadai has already shown though suddenly can be seen in a new light. Those intense eyes of his, have the wear of a sea of tears, and that voice of his changed through the cries of anguish. Though we now know he is indeed a man he might as well not be, as Nakadai portrays Hanshiro as a spirit of vengeance. This is of course not in the literal sense, but he seems as omnipresent as a ghost who can wander freely. Nakadai realizes the force within Hanshiro as being worldly, but seemingly as terrible as a power beyond the realm of man, by being a man so transfixed on one objective. Nakadai does not even depict this as though Hanshiro is merely obsessed, he's gone beyond that point, as Nakadai creates the sense in Hanshiro that this objective is all he has left, his sadness having turned into a internalized yet volcanic rage at both the men as well as the system that wronged his family. Nakadai is outstanding in his final scene as the will is within his eyes, and his voice. The sheer might of it is made true by Nakadai's performance that derives it from such fierce emotion. It such remarkable work as Nakadai because even as he so poignantly reveals the man behind the cryptic, he never loses that aura around him. Nakadai makes it so Hanshiro is more than a man, yet is still a man, it is a tremendous performance.