Seven Samurai Film Notes, Part IV
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, sometimes following DVD "Chapters")
NOTE: Kurosawa's published screenplay and DVD/film version are not always the same! ~ Cora

25. THE SECOND BATTLE [Kurosawa screenplay, 184-194]
[DAY #2] - Dawn, the next day:  Kyuzo emerges out of the mist, turns over the gun he has stolen from the Bandit horde, and reports: "Killed two." [Kurosawa screenplay, 185]
[DAY #2] - later, the same day:  Kambei's well-planned trap is sprung: First one, then two more Bandits are cut off, caught and killed. In the battle, Kyuzo has also killed another attacking Bandit.

Modesty is another important samurai ideal.  Kyuzo goes off into the night, stealthily invades the Bandits' territory, kills two Bandits, and returns in the morning with one of their guns.  When Kyuzo returns after accomplishing this extraordinary feat, he delivers the stolen guns and quietly reports, "Killed two" - only so Kambei can keep an accurate tally of the number of Bandits killed and of those remaining.  Afterwards, when young unseasoned Katsushiro gushes his admiration of Kyuzo to the hero himself, austere Kyuzo responds with a slight smile. When young Katsushiro cannot help but to continue gushing his admiration of Kyuzo to Kikuchiyo, "Kikuchiyo is inspired to abandon his post and capture a gun as well, a transgression which allows the bandits into the heart of the village" (Mellon 21, 22).

Death of the 2nd samurai: Gorobei (Kambei's right-hand man)

26. BEHIND THE LINES [Kurosawa screenplay, 194-208]
[DAY #2] - still later, the same day, after the Second Battle: At a Council of War, the villagers are feeling triumphant, and Kambei crosses off six more circles on his map, denoting 6 more Bandits killed (4 during the Second Battle, 2 more by Kyuzo during his pre-dawn raid to steal a gun). A bit later, Katsushiro continues gushing his praise of Kyuzo to Kikuchiyo, who pretends indifference but then decides he must match Kyuzo's exploits.  Kikuchiyo leaves his post, leaving hapless farmer Yohei in charge, to launch his own private and unauthorized expedition to capture a second gun from the Bandits. Stealthily arriving at the Bandits' camp, Kikuchiyo watches as the Bandit Chief has two deserters killed, appropriates warrior armor of one of the dead Bandits, manages to kill a Bandit guard and steal a gun, but not without rousing the rest of the Bandit horde.  Kikuchiyo escapes, flees back to Village defenses, proudly presents the second Bandit gun that he has stolen, but leader Kambei is outraged.  Soon enough the damage that Kikuchiyo has done becomes apparent: in hot pursuit, the Bandits have returned, have broken through vulnerable Village defenses (which Kikuchiyo had left in terrified farmer Yohei's charge) into the heart of the Village, causing  mayhem and killing many villagers. Though more Bandits are killed and their attack is repelled, the cost is high.  Among the farmers killed is Yohei, a Bandit arrow in his back; and a second samurai Gorobei is felled by a Bandit gunshot. Kambei is anguished at the loss of Gorobei, for he has lost not only his invaluable second in command but also a great friend.  A second samurai mound, marked by fallen Gorobei's sword, is erected at the top of the Village graveyard.  Blaming himself for the deaths of Yohei and Gorobei, Kikuchiyo is agonized by guilt and grief, and will mourn by their graves long into the night.

"Coming of Age" Story: Young Katsushiro Loses His Virginity -
First in Love  . . . and soon thereafter also in War

27. THAT NIGHT [Kurosawa screenplay, 208-211]
Night has fallen on Day #2 of battle.  Summary:  Kambei crosses off more circles on the edge of his map, wearily calculating that, while there are only "thirteen" Bandits left, "those last seven [Bandit deaths] cost us a lot."  Kambei and Kyuzo agree that this war must be brought to an end soon because everyone is exhausted. Kambei determines that tomorrow will be, must be, the final decisive battle; and orders that the word be spread among Village defenders (i.e. eat, drink, be merry, have sex, whatever revelries - for tomorrow you may die). Kambei is surprised when he is offered saki and food delicacies by Village revelers, realizing that Kikuchiyo was right [see 13.a, Seven Samurai Film Notes Part II]. Having learned that Kikuchiyo is still mourning at the graves, Kambei seeks Kikuchiyo out, offers him saki and consoling words. In despair, Kikuchiyo ignores the proffered cup; then finally grabs the whole saki jug and drinks recklessly and violently. Elsewhere on this "last night," at one of the defensive outposts, Shichiroji encourages Manzo to take a break and go spend a little time with his daughter Shino. Meanwhile, in another part of the Village: Shino is also caught up by this "last night" spirit, beckons the young samurai Katsushiro into a hut, sobs out her conviction that "we're all going to die" tomorrow, and desperately seduces him - though it will mean her ruin.  Cut to farmer Manzo, searching frantically for his daughter Shino among Village revelers, and what he finds realizes his worst fear from the beginning: Manzo discovers Katsushiro, followed by Shino, emerging from the hut.  Crazy with rage and shame, cursing his fallen daughter and her samurai lover, Manzo chases down, then starts beating his terrified, sobbing daughter, causing a Village uproar. After others stop Manzo and drag him away, he refuses to answer Kambei's and Shichiroji's questions. But when they spy traumatized Katsushiro in the darkness, they realize what has happened. Sympathetic Shichiroji tries to soften Manzo's stony heart, but to no avail. Broken-hearted by the loss of his own beloved wife, Rikichi is moved to cry out: "...But they love each other!"   Shino's continued crying is heard in the background as a serious rain begins to fall.

Finish Film Viewing here ?

Death of 2 more Samurai: Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo

28. THE LAST BATTLE [Kurosawa screenplay, 211-222]
Day #3, pouring rain.  Summary:
The samurai banner flutters in the wind.  Kambei gives his instructions for the final battle against the Bandits - planning another trap which will decide the outcome.  Shichiroji, taking dead Gorobei's place as second-in-command, rallies the village defenders, and finds a determined Kikuchiyo sticking five additional swords in the bank before his position.  Through relentless rain, the surviving Bandit horde gallops through the Forest and bear down upon the Village. According to Kambei's plan, the first Bandits pass unimpeded into the trap.  The enhanced sound of hoofbeats and rapid cross-cutting among the various players in this final Battle intensifies the dynamism of the dramatic action.  Amid driving rain, rising waters and slogging mud, Kikuchiyo fights furiously against every bandit within slashing range, until he falls to his knees in the mud and a bandit gallops by and breaks the blade of Kikuchiyo's sword. Tossing the useless sword away, Kikuchiyo runs splashing through the mud to his supply of swords stuck in the mound and grabs another weapon.  Other samurai and villagers run into the scene, Kambei grabs bow and arrows from Kikuchiyo's weapon stash, and calmly aims, lets fly, and fells more than one bandit galloping back and forth through the village square.  Fighting rages furiously.  Katsushiro kills for the first time, stabbing a Bandit climbing up a barricade, who writhes in agony for a moment, then falls, while Katsushiro watches, then falls to his knees.  Shichiroji finishes off another bandit, then commands Katsushiro and Rikichi to the Eastern section.  The rain still driving down, mud everywhere is at least ankle deep.  Camera focuses on several village women staring into the Village Square through the barred windows of a hut, watching Shichiroji and his unit run past.  Interior: One of the women turns toward the camera and screams; then the others turn and shriek hysterically: the Bandit Chief, carrying a gun, has entered the hut and commands the women to be quiet or they'll die.  [He does so because the powder must be dry in order for his gun to fire.] Outside the hut confused bandits gallop by, along with riderless horses, and Kikuchiyo bounds through the mud after them, followed by pursuing villagers.  They bear down upon one of the mounted Bandit captains, Kambei and Kyuzo attacking from the other side.  Rain and mud often obscures the action scenes.  It is Kyuzo's sword that finally makes deadly contact with the Bandit Captain, rider and horse tumbling to the ground into a muddy pool of water. Only the horse struggles back up to its feet again. Kambei congratulates Kyuzo, the delighted villagers leave, running back across the mud-filled Village Square.  Then a gun shot rings out and Kyuzo falls to his knees in the mud.  Kambei, other surviving samurai and villagers look on in horror, as Kyuzo tries to get to his feet, staggers, flings his sword away, and topples on his face.  Katsushiro is especially stricken by his hero's death.  When Katsushiro lurches in fury to where the gun shot came from, Kikuchiyo pushes past him and rushes toward the hut where the Bandit Chief sniper lies in wait.  Kambei and Shichiroji yell desperately at Kikuchiyo and try to reach him through the muddy quagmire.  As Kikuchiyo is about to wrench open the door of the hut, another gun shot rings out and he falls backward outside the hut.  With terrible will power, Kikuchiyo gets to his feet, clutching his stomach wound, and confronts the Bandit Chief, still holding the gun, amazed that Kikuchiyo is still alive.  Kikuchiyo stalks the Bandit Chief through the hut, out the back, and, in a final deadly effort, kills the Bandit Chief.  Then Kikuchiyo staggers forward and falls spread-eagled and lifeless into the mud.  

Kikuchiyo "dies like an animal in the mud, the rain beating down on his unclad body.  As Donald Richie notes, . . . 'he lies on a narrow bridge, on his face, and the rain is washing away the dirt from his buttocks.  He lies there like a child - all men with bare bottoms look like children - yet he is dead, and faintly ridiculous in death, and yet he was our friend for we have come to love him'" (qtd. in Mellon 11).

Kambei, Katsushiro, and Shichiroji run toward fallen Kikuchiyo through the muddy waters, followed by a crowd of villagers.  Hysterical Katsushiro starts screaming, "The Bandits! The Bandits" - but Kambei sternly takes his arm and pronounces, "All dead!"  Katsushiro falls to his knees and sobs bitterly.  In a low voice to Shichiroji, Kambei says:  "Again we've survived."

"There is a cut to the flag Heihachi sewed, still blowing.  A horse neighs, in reprise.  The winds blows dust and earth into the air, like smoke, lifting the film out of the moment in the sixteenth century in which it is set, into all of history.  There is a deep fade.  The rest of the conversation will occur in the coming scene" (Mellon 74).  FADE . . .

Most Farmers - including Rikichi, Manzo, & Shino - but only
Three Samurai - Kambei, Shichiroji, & Katsushiro - Have Survived

Kurosawa's Controversial Ending

29. FINALE [Kurosawa screenplay, 222-225]

Village Fields, some time later [spring]: A group of village men, including a happy Rikichi, stand knee-deep in one of the flooded fields playing drums and flutes, swaying in time to the music.  In subsequent camera shots, Village women and men are seen planting rice in the Village fields.

"The sounds of the farmers singing begin beneath the fade, the sound of their triumph bleeding through.  The fade-in to the final scene is in bright sunlight.  The farmers sing as they plant.  Rikichi beats a drum and prances in contentment, as if his bitterness at the loss of his wife has been washed away at last.  Manzo plays a bamboo flute, having reconciled himself to the transgression of his daughter.  All is now right in the world of these characters.  There is, at first, no sign of a samurai, which is fitting.  Then they appear, standing on a bridge, just as Kikuchiyo died on a bridge.  The camera is quickly raised to a higher angle so that it looks down on Rikichi, as if, despite his joy, he is, finally, a lesser character on the historical stage.  His selfishness, after all, a willful, if understandable emotion, cost Heihachi his life.  The more power of the film shifts to the samurai for the last time" (Mellon 74).
Medium shot of Kambei, Shichiroji and Katsushiro watching the villagers planting rice in the distance.  Looking rather sad and resigned, Kambei turns and walks away.  Kambei point-of-view camera shot of the four samurai burial mounds, their swords standing upright in each, on the burial hill of the Village graveyard.  The three surviving samurai look up towards the graves. 
"Kambei turns and walks away from the spectacle of singing, planting farmers.  Shichiroji and Katsushiro follow.  Without a word of dialogue, Kambei conveys that there is no longer a place for them here in this village where their friends have lost their lives.  Instead, they stand before the graves, which represent both their future and the destiny of their entire [samurai] class.  The graves presage, as well, the loss of all the values for which they [the samurai] stand" (Mellon 75).

Amid the planting women, the camera singles out Shino, who passes carrying her plants to join the others.  Katsushiro steps forward, she and Katsushiro briefly stare searchingly at each other, but Shino does not stop, moving on to keep her place in the line of other Village women planting the water-logged paddy fields. They say nothing to each other. Only recently become a "full-fledged man," in Kambei's words, young  Katsushiro remains on the bridge, destined to follow the doomed future of his samurai class. Shino loudly joins the continued singing, as if to drown out forever whatever she may have once felt for Katsushiro. It is clear to both that Katsushiro will not, cannot ally himself with a farmer's daughter.  The farmers' chants and music continue, and the women bend and plant in time with their rhythms. Kambei and Shichiroji exchange looks over the end of this first love affair between Shino and Katsushiro. Wordlessly, Katsushiro rejoins Kambei.  Kambei lowers his head, looks at the ground, takes a last look at the paddy fields busy with farmers planting for the next season.
Kambei: "So. Again we are defeated."
[Alternative translation:  "We've lost again."]

Surprised Shichiroji looks puzzled at Kambei
. Kambei:  "No, the farmers are the winners."  Kambei looks down.  "Not us."
Kambei turns to face the graves, "the most dramatic tableau of the film, one standing for Kurosawa's own mourning for the demise of the samurai class.  As the three men look upward, the camera lifts to reframe the shot, so that all that is left are the four graves above, and the scattered peasant graves below.  Over the last shot, devoid of human habitation, the wind blows hard under their samurai musical motif.  It grows even louder heralding both the beauty of these men and their demise.  The music crescendos in defiance of the inevitable.  Into each of the four samurai graves have been placed, as tradition so demanded, both the long sword and the short, symbols of samurai pride and identity" (Mellon 77).

Director Akira Kurosawa himself said, in an interview, "I wanted to say [in the film Seven Samurai] that after everything the peasants were the stronger, closely clinging to the earth.  It is the samurai who are weak because they were being blown by the winds of time" (qtd. by Mellon 65).

Mellon maintains that the farmers "are strong not because they are admirable or beautiful or possess any enviable qualities, but because of their brute energy, determination and persistence.  They are strong as well because of their usefulness as providers of food to the community," while Kurosawa's film suggests that the samurai, "for all their nobility . . . belong to an ethos of war and killing that ultimately does the society no good" (65). 

The central irony of Seven Samurai is that good samurai - representing the best characteristics of the class, especially "selflessness"--must perish with the bad samurai, the forty Bandits: the inexorable workings of history require that "the worthy must disappear along with the villainous" (Mellon 67).

"The villains have been defeated and yet this is a deeply sad ending, for the samurai have won the battle, but lost the war.  These good and noble men have outlived their time, an inordinate loss for Japan.  The farmers survive, yet their legacy is one of self-interest.  Despite the sacrifice these samurai have made for them, just as the samurai were not welcomed when they arrived, so, despite the courageous war they waged, no one [of the farmers] has uttered a word of gratitude or even shows any awareness of their presence. . . . Nor have the samurai expected gratitude.  They have turned their backs on the villagers to face the graves of their four fallen comrades" (Mellon 77). 

FADE . . . the words "THE END" come up on the black screen.

"The final fade bespeaks austerity, a dirge for the spirit of Japan which will never again be so strong, so purposeful, so full of dignity and grace.  With the death of the samurai, an entire world has been extinguished.  It is to the samurai class, epitomised by these men - those surviving, a very temporary condition, and those dead - that Kurosawa pays his homage" (Mellon 77).

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.
Mellon, Joan.  Seven Samurai.  BFI Film Classics Series. Ed. Rob White. London, UK: British Film
          Institute, 2002.
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. David Ehrenstein, DVD Liner Notes. Janus Criterion
          Collection, 1998.

Introduction to Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai  Film Notes, Part I

Seven Samurai Film Notes, Part II

Seven Samurai  Film Notes, Part III

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

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