Must Watch-Seven Samurai

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Seven Samurai

“Kurosawa, the greatest example of what an author of the cinema should be.” – Federico Fellini

Born in 1910, Akira Kurosawa the director debuted with the film Sanshiro Sugata in 1943

and went on to make thirty films till his death in 1998. During his long and distinguished career as a filmmaker, Kurosawa entertained, inspired, delighted and enriched audiences worldwide with  masterpieces like Raan, Rashomon,  Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Stray Dogs, Red Beard, just to name a few.

Kurosawa infused in all his films a particular style and approach which helped him to carve a niche for himself in the world of cinema. The use of multiple cameras was a technique developed and popularised by him as early as in the 1950s. The use of music and sound and the elements of weather to heighten the emotional impact of a scene were perfected by him and we can see this technique used with authority and panache in films like Rashomon and Ikiru.

A cinematic masterpiece often said to be Kurosawa’s greatest work was Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai) which he directed and completed over a period of eighteen months in 1954. The film tells the story of a small village that hires seven unemployed and master less samurai (ronin) to defend it against bandit raids in sixteenth century Japan. This very moving and humanistic film is a stunning cinematic achievement which many critics say is a tapestry of motion. In this film Kurosawa has masterfully used tracking shots with fast paced and elaborate editing to create a prevailing tempo which is like that of war punctuated by brief moments of peace.

Akira Kurosawa is considered to be the pioneer in the use of the now common plot of gathering and recruiting heroes into a team to accomplish a specific goal. This structure which he employed in Seven Samurai was later used in films like The Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen and in the western remake of the film, The Magnificent Seven.  In Seven Samurai, Kurosawa uses plots like the reluctant hero, romance between a local girl and the youngest hero and the nervousness of the common citizenry and combines them all into one narrative structure which is cohesive and unlike any seen in the cinema of that time.

The film deals with rebellion against social order and tradition. Kurosawa uses two subplots in the film to address this issue. Kikuchiyo, the high-spirited samurai played by Toshiro Mifune as a rambunctious showoff, was not born a samurai but has jumped caste to become one. And there is a forbidden romance between the samurai Katsushiro (Isao Kimura) and a village girl They love each other, but a farmer’s daughter cannot dream of marrying a ronin; when they are found together on the eve of the final battle, however, there are arguments in the village to “understand the young people,’’ and an appeal to romance, an appeal designed for modern audiences and unlikely to have carried much weight in the 1600s when the movie is set.

Seven samurai is one of the most influential films ever made. The Indian blockbuster Sholay borrowed its basic frame from the Seven Samurai. John Sturges in his film The Magnificent Seven borrows from Seven Samurai where the samurai are replaced by gunslingers and sixteenth century Japan is replaced by the Wild West.  References to Kurosawa’s masterpiece can also be found in George Lucas’s Star Wars besides other popular films like A Bugs Life.

Having won accolades at the Venice as well as the Manichi Film Festivals, Seven samurai was also nominated for the BAFTA in 1956 as well as for the Academy Awards in 1957. This critically acclaimed film is a must see for any cinema lover and even for a viewer who is not, this film is an unforgettable cinematic fiesta.

Gautam N Syiem