Better known by its English translation title,
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, "The Seven Samurai"
is one of the most famous and highly praised of all
Japanese films. I have seen it on many critic's
all-time top ten lists.
"The Seven Samurai" takes place in feudal Japan.
A small farmer's village will soon be raided by
bandits after the harvest. The village elder
decides to hire Samurai (proud, experienced mercenaries)
for its defense. Kambei (Takashi Shimura) is
the first to join, and as the leader recruits
others, notably young Katsushiro (Isao Kimura)
and aboriginal, emotive Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune).
The villagers are trained as soldiers, and the
village is quickly fortified. The bandits attack
on schedule. Will the Samurai and the village
be successfully defended?
It is a terrific story, one that Hollywood adopted
(appropriately turning it into a Western) as
"The Magnificent Seven". But while "The Seven Samurai"
is an excellent film, it is not outstanding. The
story has a few problems. There are some spoilers
in the following paragraphs.
The bandits repeatedly attack the well-defended
village. These assaults all fail, with the bandits
taking heavy losses every time. Yet they continue
their efforts until all the bandits have been
killed. This does not make sense to me, as surely
one small recently-raided village would not rate
such desperate, suicidal attention. The argument
"but then there would be no story" isn't convincing,
as the film is already two hours old when the
first assault is repelled.
I am, I also don't understand Kambei's decision to
let all the bandits into the village for the final assault.
This results in many deaths of both Samurai and villagers.
Picking off the bandits one or two at a time had been
the best strategy all along.
There is also an unneccessary romance between
Katsushiro and farmer's daughter Shino. He behaves as
shlyly as if he has never seen a girl before, while she
is as desperate to lose her virginity to him as her father
is to preserve it. More interesting is the other romantic
subplot, which has Rickichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) anguishing
over his lost wife.
But aside from these relatively minor problems with
the story, "The Seven Samurai" is an excellent film.
The battle scenes are well choreographed, and the cast and
characters are excellent (especially Mifune, who provides
the film's soul and comic relief).
Beware of edited versions. Since the original release is
203 minutes long, as much as an hour has been removed from
some prints. These cuts tend to make the film more of a
war or action picture, and less of a character study.
Copyright © 1998 Brian Koller