The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★½

#madlad Mifune

Sisyphean struggle up the slopes of the hidden fortress – but with the stone staying on top in the end.

The Hidden Fortress is a tricky one to rate: on one hand, it is a well-executed action–adventure film with a sprightly atmosphere, on the other, I wanted more depth beyond the bare narrative (especially after last night's Rashomon). There is no denying that Kurosawa is a master storyteller: here, he starts from the outer husk and acquaints us with two stock characters, whose comicality is just a tad bit overplayed. Then he prods deeper into the narrative, and reveals that the two of them are insignificant figures within a much grander plot involving feral clan warfare and a princess on the run (yes, a princess).

The story itself didn't engage me in the first half, but the beautiful scenery and Kurosawa's intense camerawork made up for it. The second half was much more action-packed and delivered some killer fight scenes, including an epic horse chase sequence and a spear duel with all the classy elegance of Japanese sparring. In the end, The Hidden Fortress is no philosophical tale, but what it sets out for (entertainment), it achieves. I still prefer 'Kurosawa the existentialist' though.

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