Warning: Spoilers follow for Matt Reeves’ The Batman and Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low (1963). If you don’t want it spoiled, don’t read any further.
One of Batman’s many nicknames is “The World’s Greatest Detective,” and in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, he spends much of the film’s three-hour runtime assessing bloody crime scenes and solving puzzles left for him by the Riddler (Paul Dano), a deranged serial killer stalking Gotham’s elite.
The Riddler is finally captured — seemingly too easily — and sent to Arkham Asylum. Later, after solving one of the Riddler’s puzzles, Batman (Robert Pattinson) visits the killer at the asylum.
It’s not just framing that both sequences share — there are common themes of class resentment in the speeches given by the Riddler and High and Low‘s imprisoned kidnapper, Ginjirô Takeuchi (Tsutomu Yamazaki).
In Kurosawa’s film, Takeuchi is visited by his victim, Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), and explains why he targeted him.
“My room was so cold in the winter and so hot in the summer, I couldn’t sleep. From my tiny room, your home looked like heaven. Day by day I came to hate you more. It gave me a reason for living,” Takeuchi tells Gondo.
In The Batman, Bruce Wayne and Wayne Manor become symbols of the wealth and status the Riddler knows he will never attain.
Reeves and his cinematographer Greig Fraser shot Wayne Manor as an oversized near-gothic estate, looming large over the rest of the city. It feels positively out of place amongst rundown Gotham. Its framing is similar to how Gondo’s estate is framed high above Yokohama in High and Low.
Reeves’ staging of his prison scene comes with an ironic twist. The Riddler summons Batman to Arkham because he believes the two are cut from the same cloth: two vigilantes serving up justice in a corrupt city. When the Riddler launches into a tirade against the spoiled, out-of-touch Bruce Wayne, he doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
The Riddler explains that he, like Wayne, is an orphan. But unlike Wayne, who had billions of dollars, he had to endure rat-infested orphan dorms, which were paid for (and subsequently neglected) by Wayne Enterprises’ charity funds.
When we spoke with Reeves for our latest cover story, he was very upfront about the films that inspired The Batman, including All the President’s Men, Klute, The Godfather, and Chinatown. And while he didn’t specifically mention High and Low, he did list Akira Kurosawa among his filmmaking heroes, along with Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, and Francis Ford Coppola.
His reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether High and Low was indeed a direct influence on the asylum exchange in The Batman.
The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, is now in theaters. Main image: Batman visits the Riddler in Arkham Asylum in The Batman.
High and Low, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is streaming on The Criterion Channel.