Seven Samurai Film Notes, Part II
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Japan, 1954
HUM 210 Online Course Pack - Fall 2006 - Prof. Cora Agatucci

Seven Samurai Film Notes, continued
(Descriptive Commentary on Major Film Sequences, following DVD "Chapters")

8.  THE SEVENTH SAMURAI, cont. [Kurosawa screenplay, 110-113]
The uninvited "7th samurai" Kikuchiyo follows the other 6 samurai, led by farmers Rikichi and Yohei, as they set out for the Village.  Along the way, the other 6 samurai make fun of Kikuchiyo, the apparently hapless wanna-be samurai with the out-sized sword, but then the underestimated Kikuchiyo begins to show some unsuspected skills and talents.  As the others rest and eat meager rations on rocks at the top of a roaring waterfall, from the pool below Kikuchiyo rises in the foreground, disrobes, enters the pool, catches a fish barehanded, and gleefully cooks it for his meal.  Later, in a forested area, when Heihachi and Gorobei begin to think they've lost Kikuchiyo and even miss him, the group is surprised by Kikuchiyo, who has managed to sneak around them and pops up ahead of the group on the road.  By the time the group reaches an overlook above the Village, Kikuchiyo is there with the others, prominently  passing them all in the foreground. But Kikuchiyo is not yet quite accepted as the 7th samurai. Viewing the Village below, Kikuchiyo scoffs at the Village below, "I'd hate to die in a dung heap like that," but then Heihachi rebuffs him: "Nobody asked you to help."  Excitedly, Rikichi shouts out an announcement of the group's arrival, but as his voice echoes round the valley, the few villagers visible below rapidly disappear into their houses.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE VILLAGE, before the 7 samurai arrive . . .
[Kurosawa screenplay, 108-110

Manzo, obsessed with selfish worry that one of the recruited samurai will seduce his daughter Shino and bring him personal shame, is driven to confront the innocent Shino, washing her hair in their home, and demand that she cut off her hair and disguise herself as a boy. Manzo, razor in hand, chases his screaming daughter out into the village commons, alarming every other farmer with a young daughter in the Village.
[NOTE: Ironic Parallel to earlier scene in which selfless Kambei voluntarily cuts off his samurai topknot, requests that a priest shave Kambei's head and lend him a robe, and thus disguises himself as a priest in order to get close enough to save a kidnapped child from a desperate thief.]
The result of Manzo's selfishly motivated is to ignite an age-old class-based fear of the approaching 7 samurai and spread panic in the Village - despite the fact that the recruited samurai are coming to help the Village in its hour of dire need.  After the deed is done, Mosuke berates Manzo in his home; a bitterly crying Shino, her hair now cut short like a boy's, is prostrate in the background, while terrified villagers watch the scene from outside.   Angry Mosuke demands that they go consult Grandad, the village patriarch, for something must be done to calm the general panic before the recruited samurai arrive.

9.  FRIGHTENED VILLAGE [Kurosawa screenplay, 112-114]
The 7 samurai, led by farmers Rikichi and Yohei, arrive in the deserted Village square, but despite Rikichi's repeated callings and increasingly embarrassment, no villagers arrive to greet them. The samurai are offended by the lack of Village welcome and hospitality; Rikichi is confused, angry and humiliated. Only Kikuchiyo, laughing and cavorting raucously, seems to understand what is going on. Finally, Mosuke emerges, hurries toward them, and asks that they follow him to consult Grandad, the village patriarch who "makes all our decisions for us."  They all follow. WIPE

10. FALSE ALARM [Kurosawa screenplay, 114-118]
10.a  Grandad's house at the Watermill, its churning heard at regular intervals: Close-up of Grandad/Gisaku, eyes closed.  Surrounding him are Kambei and the other samurai, waiting; Mosuke and Manzo cower in one corner.  Finally Grandad speaks, explaining the villagers' behavior to Kambei: "They are foolish you see. . . . They are farmers; they're afraid. Afraid of everything . . . ." To confirm this judgment, the camera cuts at intervals on cowering Yohei, and on frightened Manzo and Mosuke. Kambei is perplexed: "But why are they afraid of us? . . . Yet they expect us to do something for them?" Close up of Grandad/Gisake, who closes his eyes tightly. Suddenly, the Village alarm clapper is heard, and Grandad's eyes spring open with alarm.

10.b Rapid sequence of shots: of screaming villagers rushing into the Village square; of the ever-alert samurai - each in turn - instantly on the run, out of the Mill, across the bridge, into the Village square; of  terrified Yohei, screaming "Help! The bandits are coming!" In the Village square, chaos and panic prevails among the villagers, while Kambei, the trained samarai leader, commands that everyone calm down and shouts out strategic questions: where the bandits are coming from, who saw the bandits, and finally, "Who rang the alarm?"  Off screen, Kikuchiyo shouts, "I did!"  Camera singles out Kikuchiyo, seen over the heads of the crowd, then centered in the frame, beating the wooden alarm clapper, then laughing and making faces at the cowering crowd of villagers.  Enjoying his moment at the center of all this attention, Kikuchiyo mocks the farmers: "Don't be scared! . . . . No bandits are coming! . . . Look, you idiots.  We come all this way and then look at the welcome you give us!  Yet when I knock on your alarm a few times . . . You all rush out screaming for us to help you!"  Kikuchiyo mocks the villagers with malicious abandon, and shows open disgust, and the villagers display shamefaced discomfort. 
By this time, aged Grandad/Gisake finally arrives at the Village square: "Everything's all right now."  Gleefully, Kikuchiyo nods yes and turns toward the other samurai.  Moving forward, Heihachi observes, "Well, I guess we're really seven [samurai] now."  The samurai laugh out their assent.  FADE OUT.

11. MAKING PLANS [Kurosawa screenplay, 118-123]
11.a  That Night, farmer Rikichi's House: Lodged in Rikichi's home, the seven samurai are settling in for the night, Rikichi explaining that he will sleep in the stable, now emptied of horses by previous Bandit raids.  When Kikuchiyo holds up a woman's robe he's found in Rikichi's house, and makes ribald remarks about the absence of women in the Village, Rikichi freaks and rushes out, leaving the other samurai wondering about Rikichi's emotional reaction.

11.b Next Day: Kambei holds a MAP of the Village environs; Katsushiro and Gorobei (emerging as Kambei's right hand man), join Kambei to discuss defense strategies.  [Preparations for the defense of the Village begin, with different samurai using their special skills to direct defense preparations:]

WEST: Hills [Defense of the Western approach to the Village, from the Hills:] Shot sequence of exhausted villagers carrying large logs and depositing them on the grass, directed by Shichiroji

SOUTH: Fields [Defense of the Southern approach to the Village, over the Fields:] Shot sequence of Kambei, Gorobei, and Katsushiro viewing the fields.  Kambei decides that "Right after harvest, we'll flood this section," and Gorobei sees the strategic value of Kambei's plan but wonders whether they'll "have enough time" before the Bandits come to attack again.

TRAINING (1): Shot sequence of Kyuzo training a line of farmers, armed with bamboo spears, to fight the Bandits.  Medium close-up of young Katsushiro, watching with admiration and developing hero-worship for Kyuzo, the sword master.

EAST: Bridge [Defense of the Eastern approach to the Village, over the Bridge]: Kambei says, "If we destroy this bridge . . . we can defend this area a lot easier."

OUTSIDE planned VILLAGE DEFENSES lie three houses and Grandad's Watermill, which Kambei determines "must be evacuated," because they cannot be defended: successful defense must be focused on the central Village.  When Gorobei observes, "That old man is stubborn," Kambei rubs his shaved head ruefully.

TRAINING (2): Shot sequence of Heihachi using empathetic humor to train another group of farmers: "So you're afraid of the enemy.  Well, that's only natural . . . but remember, they're afraid of you too!"  Heichachi and his farmer-trainees all laugh happily, as Kambei, Gorobei, and Katsushiro pass by.

TRAINING (3): Shot sequence of Kikuchiyo browbeating another group of cowering farmers holding bamboo spears: "Oh, you're all just splendid.  Standing there like a line of scarecrows. . . . Only, remember, these bandits aren't crows - and they're not sparrows either."  As Kikuchiyo speaks, Kambei, Gorobei, and Katsushiro, overseeing operations, pass by.  A group of admiring children is revealed, in the foreground, avidly watching as Kikuchiyo draws his over-sized sword and singles out nervous Yohei.  Noticing Yohei's spear, a battle-weapon superior to the other farmer's rough bamboo spears, Kikuchiyo questions Yohei about where he got it.  Kikuchiyo hurls his accusation: "You don't get spears like that unless you take them - from dead samurai.  If you have this one then you must have others" (Shouting at all of them.) "Where are they?"

NORTH: Forest [Northern approach to the Village, through the Forest]: Kambei and Gorobei decide this is "our weakest spot" [Kurosawa screenplay, 122]

12. "STILL A CHILD" [Kurosawa screenplay, 122-125 ]
12.a Samurai Leader Kambei and his right hand man Gorobei survey the vulnerable Northern approach to the Village, at a "peaceful" forested spot, with a stream trickling by in the background. Close-up of MAP, this northern area marked "Forest" in Japanese.  SETTING detail: "Sunshine streams through the branches and flowers grow in profusion at their feet" [Kurosawa screenplay, 122].  Katsushiro, who has accompanied them, begins to wander on his own, enchanted by the beautiful setting, kneeling to smell the flowers at his feet, and stays behind when Kambei and Gorobei announce they are leaving.  The older men smile at dreamy Katsushiro and remark: "He's still a child."

SUBPLOT: A Love Story Begins . . .

12.b Katsushiro, waist-deep in flowers, wanders alone in the forest, sits beside the stream in a patch of sunlight, lies back on a carpet of small white flowers, smiles with contentment and closes his eyes.
NOTE: one of the few shots in the film of a character alone, for characters working in groups predominate film sequences.  Suddenly, Katsushiro gets to his feet, scrambles up the bank, spotting a figure running on the other side of the stream.  Medium shot of Shino, disguised in boy's clothes, shorn hair tied back in a short pigtail, holding a bunch of flowers: stops in a carpet of flowers and stares at Katsushiro on the other side of the stream.  Medium close-up of Katsushiro, sheathing his drawn sword after examining Shino and demanding to know, "Who are you?" and upon closer inspection, "Are you a girl?"  Frightened, Shino shakes her head no vigorously.  Puzzled Katsushiro demands, "If you're a boy why aren't you out drilling with the others? Picking flowers . . . at a time like this!" When Katsushiro realizes he is shaking his own sprig of flowers at Shino, he throws the blossom away and vows, "I'll make you march!"  Shino runs off, pursued by Katsushiro, and the camera tracks the chase.  Shino trips and falls, Katsushiro catches her; struggling on the ground, Katsushiro grabs at her chest to test her gender, Shino pushes him off and holds her robe closely across her breasts.  Camera catches Katsushiro jumping away in horror and embarrassment when he realizes Shino is a young woman. "Long shot of Katsushiro and Shino sitting some yards apart, partly obscured by flowers and undergrowth" (Kurosawa screenplay, p. 125).

13. SAMURAI ARMOR [Kurosawa screenplay, 125-131]
13.a  That night, Inside Rikichi's house:
The samurai are grouped around the MAP, discussing defense strategies, then all look up. Kikuchiyo approaches from outside then enters the room, dressed in full samurai armor, followed by farmers carrying samurai armor, helmets, and weapons. Triumphantly believing his discovery will significantly help Village defense against the Bandits, Kikuchiyo addresses the surprised samurai: "Look what I've found! . . . ," and explains that he found this stash of "samurai stuff" hidden in the house of farmer Manzo (who especially fears and hates samurai). Medium close up of frightened Manzo, hiding behind the load of weapons.  Met by the samurai's appalled silence, Kikuchiyo becomes uneasy and blusters, "Well, what's the matter? We need it, don't we?  Armour, spears, bows and arrows . . . "  Shichiroji explodes at Kikuchiyo:  "Shame! And you call yourself a samurai! . . . Don't you know how they [the farmers] got these? They were taken from samurai!"  [Aspiring samurai Kikuchiyo does know how farmers got these samurai goods, but in not initially understanding the response of the other 6 samurai, Kikuchiyo reveals the practical bent of one born into the farmer class and of one whose loyalties remain divided between farmer and samurai class.]  Leader Kambei intervenes between Shichiroji and Kikuchiyo, and speaks with self-disciplined control: "I understand.  But someone who has never been hunted down after a battle [i.e. a samurai] by bamboo spears [i.e. of farmers] wouldn't understand." Shichiroji grabs and hurls one of the samurai spears from the farmers' booty, the spear falls at the feet of entering farmer Rikichi, and camera intercuts reveal the terror of Manzo, Yohei, and the other farmers. Normally good-natured Heihachi stabs the floor with a knife, and even master swordsman Kyuzo, exemplar of rigid samurai self-discipline, cannot stop himself from uttering aloud: "I'd like to kill every farmer in this village."  

Understanding of the samurai's hostility toward the farmers, as well as the bitter irony of the situation, dawns upon Kikuchiyo, he laughs loudly and begins shouting at the samurai [and his speech goes something like this]: "Well, what do you think farmers are?  Saints? . . . Hah! They're foxy beasts! They say, 'We've got no rice, we've no wheat. We've got nothing!' But they have! They have everything! Dig under the floors! Or search the barns! You'll find plenty! Beans, salt, rice, cake! Look in the valleys, they've got hidden warehouses! They pose as saints but are full of lies! If they smell a battle, they hunt the wounded and the defeated [samurai]! . . .  They're nothing but stingy, greedy, blubbering, foxy, and mean! . . . . But then who made them such beasts? You did! You samurai did it! You burn their villages! Destroy their farms! Steal their food! Force them to labour! Take their women! And kill them if they resist! So what should farmers do?"  His bitter fury expended, Kikuchiyo curses the samurai, sinks to his knees and breaks down crying. Reaction close-up of Kambei unfolding his arms and looking down at his hands, Heihachi and Shichiroji visible behind him.  The samurai are clearly moved. When Kambei finally looks up, tears in his eyes, he says quietly to sobbing Kikuchiyo, "You're a farmer's son, aren't you?"  Kikuchiyo looks up, gets to his feet, and runs out of the room, past approaching Rikichi leading Grandad into the main room.  When Grandad asks, "Is anything the matter?" Kambei, rubbing his shaved head, replies, "No, nothing."

13.b Outside on the road that night, wind blows up dust around Katsushiro, returning late, who runs into a distraught Kikuchiyo, still clad in full samurai armor. Noticing Katsushiro, watching him with puzzled interest, Kikuchiyo pushes the younger man away with a spear; staggering on, Kikuchiyo notices and rebuffs with his weapon a group of children, his ever-following groupies.  FADE OUT.
13.c Later that night, in Rikichi's Stable: 
Kikuchiyo stumbles in, lays himself down for the night in the stable straw beside Rikichi, and declares himself "Home again" where he belongs.  [Following the earlier emotional scene in Rikichi's house, Kikuchiyo refuses to sleep in the samurai's room.]  WIPE.

14. THE SECRET GARDEN [Kurosawa screenplay, 131-136]
14.a Short time later: Day, raining hard outside, at Rikichi's House: Camera shots of Kambei sitting cross-legged on the floor, with Gorobei nearby; of Heihachi sewing something, with Kikuchiyo lying nearby.  Gorobei and Kambei muse how quiet the Village seems, how hard it is to believe the mountains are full of bandits.  When Kikuchiyo pipes up with, "there are women in this village, you know," Kyuzo looks round disdainfully, but then suddenly gets up, holding his sword, and walks to the door. When a surprised Shichiroji asks where he's going, Kyuzo replies that he's going to the hills "to practice." Kikuchiyo observes that Kyuzo won't find many women there.  Close-up of young Katsushiro, leaning against the doorway, looking down in embarrassment at this exchange.  Medium shot of laughing Heihachi and Kikuchiyo, who takes an interest in what Heihachi is sewing.  Heihachi explains that he is making a banner "to stir our fighting spirit."  Camera close-up on his long-narrow banner, with circles and symbols that Heihachi explains to Kikuchiyo: at the banner's bottom is the Japanese character for "farmer"  representing the Village; the 6 circles above represent the 6 samurai; followed by a triangle for the 7th samurai, Kikuchiyo, "so special that I made you a triangle."  A pleased but bashful Kikuchiyo scratches his cheek in response. Listening from the doorway, Katsushiro smiles, then runs out into the rain and off toward the forest.

14.b The same day, In the Forest, near a small stream: Come here to "practice," Kyuzo stands, then suddenly lunges with his sword twice at an imagined adversary.  Sword erect, Kyuzo then crosses the stream and strides off into the dripping forest. Cut to Kyuzo, stopping by a large tree, then leaning against the tree trunk. In the background, Shino appears outside a rough wooden hut in the rain, looking up the forest track toward the Village. Bending down to see her reflection in a rain puddle, Shino hastily combs and tidies her chopped off hair.  Medium intercut shots of Kyuzo by the tree trunk, watching with interest but unseen by Shino.  Kyuzo, sheathing his sword, continues watching but moves farther behind the tree truck to keep out of sight.  In the distance, Katsushiro comes into view, splashing through rain puddles on the track from the Village, until he reaches Shino; then they duck into the wood hut. 

14.c The same day, In the Forest, Inside the Wood Hut:  Unwrapping a parcel, Katsushiro shows Shino that he has brought her rice. He urges her to eat the rice, observing that he has tasted the "terrible" millet she and the other farmers have been eating.  Offering to leave while she eats, Katsushiro walks outside the hut. Following him outside the hut, Shino refuses to eat the rice, explaining that she'd rather take his rice to Kyomon's grandmother [who has no living male relatives to provide for her]. Intercuts: Kyuzo still watches the couple from behind the tree truck.  Katsushiro takes Shino's arm and they leave, walking back toward the Village. Kyuzo leaves his hiding place and follows them. WIPE.

14.d That evening, Rikichi's House:  Rikichi serves the 7 samurai their dinner of rice.  As Rikichi is about to serve Katsushiro, he declares that he is not hungry, asking that his portion be reserved.  Then Kyuko discreetly intervenes, volunteering to reserve something from his portion of the rice and encouraging Katsushiro to go ahead and eat his full portion. Kambei is intrigued by this interchange.  WIPE.

14.e  Village Hut of Kyumon's Grandmother, Rain pouring down outside: The old woman bends over a bowl of rice placed before her, overlooked compassionately by Katsushiro, Rikichi, Kambei, and the other samurai.  Appalled that the old woman has been starving, Kambei says, "But this is terrible" to Rikichi, who  explains that all the old woman's relatives were killed the Bandits.  The old woman looks up at them and says, "I want to die." Amid the sympathetic samurai, Kikuchiyo is in a bad temper.  Kyumon's Grandmother haltingly continues: "I don't want to live anymore . . . . But I'm afraid . . .  that the next world . . . will be terrible too."  Tender-hearted Heihachi, trying to comfort, tells her that Paradise is nice, without any bandits. But a glaring Kikuchiyo explodes: "How do you know? Ever been dead? . . . I hate misery.  And I hate miserable people. . . . Looking at a worm like her I get sick.  Wretched, helpless.  I never want to be like that. . . . I want to be reckless, daring . . . ."  Kambei responds, "Then you just keep feeling like that until the bandits come."

14.f  Outside the Old Woman's Hut: Kyuzo emerges from the hut into the rain.  Katsushiro appears in the entrance behind him, then comes up to Kyuzo and stammers: "Wait . . . you . . . you saw me today didn't you? I mean, with . . . "  Kyuzo affirms that he saw Katsushiro with the girl [Shino].  When Katsushiro asks why he didn't say anything to the others, Kyuzo responds simply, "You want me to? [alternative translation:] What do you want me to say?"  FADE OUT.

FADE IN: Ripening crops fill the camera frame, rippling in the breeze.
10 Days until HARVEST Time
[which means the BANDITS will soon come again to attack the Village ]

15. [More] TRAINING [Kurosawa screenplay, 136-141]
15.a  At Rikichi's house: A crowd of children, pressed up against the bamboo walls, stare in and clamor for rice, then disperse but continue clamoring as Kikuchiyo strides outside and stands before them, hands on his hips. Kikuchiyo teases his crowd of admiring, clamoring children, telling them at first to shut up for he has no rice for them, but when some of the samarai emerge behind him carrying bowls of rice, the children press forward, knowing Kikuchiyo is not serious. Kikuchiyo clowns before his laughing young groupies, asking them whether any of them do not have "a pretty sister," before giving in and letting them have the proffered rice.

15.b The few villagers, like Mosuke, whose homes lie OUTSIDE the defenses designed to protect the central Village, are reminded that they must evacuate; Water-Mill home of Grandad/Gisaku also lies outside central village defenses and his relatives despair, knowing that Grandad probably cannot be persuaded to evacuate his home before the Bandits attack  [Kurosawa screenplay, 137]

15.c  Village square. Day:  Certain the Bandits will come soon after harvest to the attack the Village, chief-of-staff Gorobei - backed by the other samurai - lectures Village farmers on their duty to work together and camp together in preparing Village defenses against the Bandits after the Harvest is brought in.  When Kikuchiyo advises the farmers to "love your wives plenty tonight," the villagers roar with laughter, and good-humored Heihachi encourages them to keep up such high spirits. [This is a unique moment of UNITY, when farmers and samurai are as one.]

15.d  Mosuke rebels:  Calling to him those few villagers whose homes lie outside central Village defenses, Mosuke enjoins them "to throw down your spears. It's useless to carry a spear to protect someone else's house when you can't protect your own." The five villagers start to run off, but stop when Kambei commands them to "Wait! . . . return to your units."  Other samurai, standing before their units of farmers, support Kambei, who delivers a stern lecture: "There are only three houses beyond the bridge and there are twenty in the village.  We cannot endanger twenty because of three. . . . And if the village is destroyed, those three will not be safe anyway. . . . War is like that.  If the defence is for everyone, each individual will be protected.  The man who thinks only of himself, destroys himself.  From now on such desertion will be punished" (Kurosawa screenplay, 140). After raising, then putting away his sword, Kambei walks through the parade of farmer-troops and passes out of the frame.  No one else moves.  The wind rises and blows.  FADE OUT.

16. DVD: INTERMISSION [Kurosawa screenplay,141]

Works Cited

Kurosawa, Akira.  Seven Samurai.  Trans. Donald Keene. 1970.  Seven Samurai and Other
         Screenplays: Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood. 
London: Faber and Faber, 1992.

Seven Samurai [Japan: Shichinin no samurai]. Dir. Akira Kurosawa.  Wr. Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu
         Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni.  Perf. Takashi Shimura,
Toshirô Mifune, Isao Kimura, Yoshio
Toho Co. Ltd., 1954.  DVD. Janus Criterion Collection, 1998.

Introduction to Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai  Film Notes, Part I

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Seven Samurai  Film Notes, Part III

Seven Samurai  Film Notes, Part IV

Internet Movie Database: Shichinin no samurai
Asian Film Connections: Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998)

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