Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai ★★★★★

If there’s one thing Kurosawa loves, it’s rain, that most melancholy of natural occurrences that rarely brings on anything beyond discomfort and inconvenience, but that is a true necessity all the while.

The opening of Seven Samurai informs the viewer that bandits have decided to raid a squalid village of their crops as soon as they’re ripe, and the villagers (with some difficulty) hire Seven Samurai to protect the village.

I’m sure you probably know of the story, but it got me to wondering why Kurosawa loves rain so much, and it dawned on me as I was rewatching this. In spite of the traditionally fun action/adventure genre pioneered by this movie, Seven Samurai is a rather grim, serious story.

The movie isn’t without its moments of levity and good spirits (mostly thanks to Toshirō Mifune), but there’s an inherent tragedy and finality to the entire story that carries through all the way to the end, which dares to ask if being a hero is really worth it. Like the rain, the story is often unpleasant and dour (by design), but Kurosawa never lets us forget that neither the villagers nor the Samurai have any other choice.

On top of being amazingly written, gorgeously filmed, and perfectly told, the movie subtly explores the cost of war and conflict, and doesn’t hesitate to emphasize the worst qualities of its characters, no matter how heroic they may be.

That’s the main reason, besides its endless rewatchability in spite of its runtime, that I’ll keep coming back to this for years. It’s a challenging, confrontational movie about what needs to be done just to survive; centering the stakes purely around food makes for one of the most primal, relateable stories ever told, but it doesn’t let everyone (or anyone) off the hook.

There’s not a whole lot I can say that hasn’t already been said over the past 64 years, but suffice it to say that it works on every possible level, and it’s one of my very favorite movies. Merry Xmas everyone :)

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