Seven Samurai Film Notes, Part IV
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Japan, 1954
HUM 210 Online Course Pack - Fall 2006 - Prof. Cora Agatucci
Samurai Film Notes, continued
|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)
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"Coming of Age" Story: Young Katsushiro Loses His Virginity -
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Death of 2 more Samurai: Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo
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
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.
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).
Kurosawa, Akira. Seven Samurai. Trans. Donald
Keene. 1970. Seven Samurai and Other
Introduction to Seven
Samurai Film Notes, Part I
Seven Samurai Film Notes,
Samurai Film Notes, Part III
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Samurai Film Notes, Part IV
Internet Movie Database:
Shichinin no samurai
Asian Film Connections: Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998)
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Last updated: 05 October 2006