The Seven Samurai
Some comments from Stephen Prince, The Warrior's Camera,
What is always impressive about Seven Samurai is its boundless
energy, the speed of its tracking shots, the aggressiveness of its wipe-linked
transitions, and the dazzling use of multicamera perspectives. The film
is an exercise in kinesis, in the realization of a cinema defined as pure
Relations among the classes and the permeability of class
lines are central to Seven Samurai. (206)
. . .Seven Samurai is a reversal and a refutation
of the example of Ikiru, arguing against the possibility of solitary,
existential heroics. There is simply no space in this film where a hero
can stand as an individual. That space is constantly being transformed
into social terms where isolation and individualism are regarded as pathologies.
. .Kambei tells the others that everyone must work together as a group,
and that those who think only of themselves will destroy themselves and
all others. Kambei's words are extraordinary, given the ethical context
established by Kurosawa's contemporary-life films, where the hero is expected,
as a matter of course, to define an individual path. But here the material
of the past discloses no spaces in which the individaul can move, no spaces
not already inhabited by groups and their demands. The self must be
an interactionist self or cease to exist. (210, italics mine)
Seven Samurai is a film about the primacy of groups,
the untranscendability of class, and by implication the fiction of individual
1. Shimada KAMBEI (ShimuraTakashi), the "lead" samurai
"Such selfishness will not be tolerated. You're all in one boat."
"He who thinks only about himself will destory himself, too."
"In war, it's teamwork that counts."
2. KIKUCHIYO (Mifune Toshiro), the buffoon, the man who would be a samurai.
He is the first to admit the faults of the peasants--they are
crafty and dishonest. But who made them that way that they are? he challenges
the rest of the samurai.
3. Okamoto KATSUSHIRO (Kimura Ko), the young, idealistic samurai, whose story
is a coming of age story.
4. Katayama GOROBEI (Inaba Yoshio) the first to join Kambei and Katushiro
"My name sounds strong but. . ."
5. Hayashida HEIHACHI (Chiaki Minoru) of the "Woodcutter Sword School"
"There are too many enemies to kill them all, so I usually just run."
6. SHICHIROJI (Kato Daisuke), Kambei's right hand man
He answers YES to the proposition which will being no profit, no honor, without
"We might die this time," says Kambei.
He just smiles; his eyes shine. He is ready.
7. KYUZO (Miyaguchi Seiji), the master swordsman
"A man only interested in perfecting his own skill"
Who dies when?
1. Heihachi was the first to die, shot during the raid on the bandits lair
when Rikichi ran to his (crazed) wife.
2. Gorobei was the second to die.
3. Kyuzo was the third, and
4. Kikuchiyo the fourth, and final of the seven to fall.
All were killed by bullets.
Kambei, and his old friend Shichiroji survive, hence his classic line "Mata
iki-nokotta na," or, "So, once again we have survived." But
Kambei understands that--as he has fought in losing battles all is life--"Kondo
mo makechatta na," or "We have lost again. It is the farmers who
have won" ["Katta no wa ano hyakushotachi da"].
Of course, Katsushiro survives, too. Wouldn't be much of a coming of age story,
if he didn't.
In the John Sturges western adaptation, The Magnificent Seven, there
is a character who was like an amalgam of both Kikuchiyo and Katsushiro--played
by Horst Buckholtz, a German actor--who was originally from a village, too, but is trying to
escape that heritage by becoming a big time gunfighter. At the end of the film,
though, he elects to stay in the Mexican village and work the land alongside the young
peasant girl, his love interest.
Katsushiro, however, could not do this. He is a samurai and cannot/will not
remain in a village as a peasant. No way. The class barriers are too high to leap over.