Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai

I think it’s hard to review classic films through a modern lens. Considering that Seven Samurai is almost seventy years old, there are definitely parts of the film that cannot survive contemporary scrutiny.

Not sure if it was my edition or the film itself, but the audio was pretty rough. Granted, I don’t speak Japanese so I’m not missing out on too much, but it’s hard to some times make out what the characters are saying without background noise and static. The choreography of the fight scenes seems silly by current standards: actors flailing around with swords, peasants falling down while they chase bandits, people dying awkwardly dramatic deaths... hard to watch some of this without cringing and also being relieved with how far we’ve come in the art of filmmaking.

But there are aspects of this film that make it feel truly timeless. It’s evident that modern story telling tropes were derived from or at least influenced by the way Kurosawa told this story. In the first act when Shimada recruits the other samurai, the sequence felt like it was straight out of a modern action flick. Ocean’s Eleven? Avengers? 

And the shots..the film is in black and white but the images are so crisp and so beautifully positioned. Sure, the camera work might not be as smooth as what it could be on a modern camera crane, but the compositions of these shots feel like paintings. The way light peers through the doors of a barn and casts shadow onto the characters’ faces. Beds of wild flower propping up a tense encounter. Two samurai facing each other as they prepare to duel.. I could go on and on.

Also can’t talk about this film without mentioning movement in the scenes! It’s really magical to see how Kurosawa composes action. Bandits on horses stream across the frame as peasants scatter. Rain drops splash onto the roofs and fields as swords and arrows fly. Even in full conversations, you can see and feel the movement of wind behind the characters as their conversation carries on.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed watching the movie, just because my definition of a “fun” movie has been changed and altered by the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean or the MCU... but it’s awe-inspiring to watch the film the influenced it all.