Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



Seven Samurai (1954, Jp.)

 



Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions
Screenshots

Seven Samurai (1954, Jp.) (aka Shichinin no samurai)

In Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece set in the year 1586 - and later used as a template for the western The Magnificent Seven (1960), it was about a Japanese peasant village protected from roving hordes of bandits by seven unemployed, recruited samurai or ronin (swordsmen), who were compensated with three meals of rice a day and lodging:

  • the 16th century epic plot was set during the Sengoku Period, a lawless time of civil wars when farmers were at the mercy of ferocious brigands of bandits, who galloped on horses across the screen in the film's opening; a bandit chief and his captain peered down from a high-angle on a mountain village but decided not to ravage it once again for its rice and barley, until the harvest came in: ("We just took their rice last fall. They'll have nothing now"); in the village, the peasants moaned and cried out: "Is there no god to protect us? Land tax, forced labor, war, drought, and now bandits! The gods want us farmers dead!"
Hordes of Bandits Roaming the Countryside and Considering Attacking a Village
  • the villagers discussed what they might do in the future: Should they surrender their harvest to the bandits, or fight back against them?; a young farmer Rikichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) strongly suggested that the villagers should fight back and not bargain with the bandits - "Kill or be killed," but an older farmer named Manzo (Kamatari Fujiwara) disagreed - he recommended for them to submit to the bandits: "The farmer's only choice is to endure. We can't defy the powerful. When the bandits arrive, we'll greet them meekly and quietly hand over all our barley. We'll plead with them to leave just enough for us to survive"
  • the villagers decided to seek the advice of the town's elder-patriarch Gisaku (Kokuten Kôdô), who spoke briskly: "We fight...We'll hire samurai"; some were troubled and questioned: "Whoever heard of farmers hiring samurai?", especially samurai who were known to be proud; the elder responded that the villagers should hire those who were unemployed or hungry: "Find hungry samurai. Even bears come down from the mountains when they're hungry"
  • in the town, initial efforts over a ten-day period to directly hire samurai were frustrating and unsuccessful, since most refused what they called "charity" for only three meals a day, or were unsuited and weak; but then some of the villagers witnessed the cunning rescue of a young 7 year-old male hostage from a thief that changed everything
  • in a powerful sequence, wise veteran leader ronin (samurai warrior) Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) disguised himself as a monk (with head shaved and dressed in priest's robe) to rescue the child hostage held in a village hut by a kidnapper-thief; he calmed the kidnapper: ("I'm just a monk, I mean you no harm") and offered food (two rice-balls) to feed the upset child; but then, in an intercut edited sequence with various crowd reaction shots while wielding a sword, Kambei killed the man who ran out of the hut and fell face-forward dead (in slow-motion)
  • Kambei's rescue brought forth another young samurai named Katsushiro Okamoto (Isao Kimura), who begged to be Kambei's disciple-acolyte; he was insistent ("I'm determined to follow you whether you allow me to or not")
  • when the farmers asked Kambei (and Katsushiro) to help defend their village, the offer was accepted, and he went on to recruit four more warriors to begin; he theorized that at least four men would be needed to guard the open field area in the front of the village, and two more to help guard the rear (up against the mountains)
  • in addition to the six warriors in total, he recruited a burly, wild and arrogant Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), who turned out to be the black sheep of the group
  • Kikuchiyo discovered traditional Samurai armor from dead warriors that had been secretly hidden by the villagers - it was most likely that the villagers killed injured, fleeing or dying samurai from other nearby battles
  • while wearing some of the armor, Kikuchiyo ranted at the other samurai, calling them, in general, rapists, thieves, and overall mean, stupid murderers - he clearly identified with the plight of the villagers: ("What did you think these farmers were anyway? Buddhas or something? Don't make me laugh! There's no creature on earth as wily as a farmer! Ask 'em for rice, barley, anything, and all they ever say is, 'We're all out.' But they've got it. They've got everything. Dig under the floorboards. If it's not there, try the barn. You'll find plenty. Jars of rice, salt, beans, sake! Go up in the mountains. They have hidden fields. They kowtow and lie, playing innocent the whole time. You name it, they'll cheat you on it! After a battle, they hunt down the losers with their spears. Listen to me! Farmers are misers, weasels, and cry-babies! They're mean, stupid murderers! Damn! I could laugh till I cry! But tell me this: Who turned them into such monsters? You did! You samurai did! Damn you to hell! In war, you burn their villages, trample their fields, steal their food, work them like slaves, rape their women, and kill 'em if they resist. What do you expect 'em to do? What the hell are farmers supposed to do?")
  • after his emotional speech that revealed his own peasant upbringing, the sobbing Kikuchiyo sank to his knees, and swore: "Damn... damn... damn... damn..."; after a long pause, Kambei asked him: "You were born a farmer, weren't you?" - it was a surprising revelation that Kikuchiyo wasn't a samurai after all, but the son of a village peasant
  • the climax of the film was its final rain-soaked battle (the third day of fighting) in the mud during a torrential downpour, between the villagers (and the samurai) against about 40 armed bandits (who demanded the villagers' rice)
  • the ending shot was Kambei's view of the graves or funeral mounds of four dead comrades (each with a samurai sword sticking out), with his words: "We've lost yet again. With their land, the farmers are the victors, not us"; beneath the samurai mounds were the graves of the fallen villagers

Village's Circle Meeting and Discussion: What Should Be Done About the Bandits?

The Opinion of Older Farmer Manzo: Submit Meekly to the Bandits and Not Fight Back

The Old Man Gisaku's Suggestion: Hire Hungry Samurai To Protect the Village



Samurai Kambei Shimada





Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune)


Rain-Soaked Battle Between Villagers (and Samurai) and the Bandits

The Graves or Funeral Mounds of Four Dead Samurai

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