Thematic Analysis Of Kurosawa

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Thematic Analysis Of Kurosawa’s Sanshiro Sugata And Seven Samurai Essay, Research Paper It is not difficult to speak of thematic dualities in Akira Kurosawa’s Judo Saga (Sanshiro Sugata, 1943) and Seven Samurai (Scichinin no samurai, 1957), and upon inspection, a thematic presentation evolution is identifiable. This giant of the world cinematic community has inspired much discussion, much praise, yet little unified thematic analysis. This, however, seems strangely fitting, since Kurosawa himself is unwilling, and perhaps unable to define his thematic or stylistic intent any more than we the viewers can pigeonhole his reluctance. Donald Ritchie (one of the few authors to actually assess the director’s work, and because of this whose views and critical opinions I will be

referring to throughout) contends, “Aesthetics presume a system, a style presumes an expression, and a reflection of the man himself. Neither are of any interest to the actuality of the film to be made.” This alluding to the objectivity of what is “real” compared to what is implied, or presumed. There is a distinct dichotomy at work within Kurosawan films, a didactic presence that insists the practicality of the image – observed, unquestioned – and the intent – abstract, philosophical. In reference to heroes in Kurosawan films Richie explains, “[Kurosawa's] heroes are always completely human in that they are corrigible. The Kurosawa fable shows that is difficult indeed ‘to know’; but at the end of the picture the hero has come to learn that ‘to know and act

are one and the same.’ The Kurosawa villian is the man who thinks he knows, who thinks he is complete.” This is a running theme throughout Kurosawa’s films, particularly in those which combine jidai-geki with gendai-geki (chambara), such as Sanshiro Sugata and Seven Samurai. In the former, Sanshiro is the hero who learns humanity. In Seven Samurai, it is Kambei who teaches it. Both heroes act out of “goodness,” to be sure, but each must sacrifice their beliefs, thier honor, even their status in order to do so. Essentially, they discard the illusion of heroism to achieve its reality, though adding grey shades to our pre-conceived notions of heroism. This is a popular concern of Kurosawa’s. His heroes are almost always performing acts leading us the viewers to doubt

thier intentions: Sugata’s haughty fights in the villiage square; Kambei performing an act of deception by shaving his head. Stephen Prince in his book, The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa, acknowledges Kurosawa’s heroic mode, insisting that the hero serve humanity. This is well demonstated in both films: Sugata sacrifices victory of Higaki’s challenged match by sparing his life, and Kambei removes his top-knot (a great sacrifice for a samurai) in order to save a baby, to serve humanity. Bert Cardullo, in his excellent essay, “The Circumstance of the East, the Fate of the West,” uses Seven Samurai’s plot structure to distinguish fate from circumstance, “Seven Samurai is a film about circumstance, or about man and his relationship, at his best, to

circumstance; it is not a film about fate. In tragedy, man acts, often stupidly if inevitably, and then reflects on his actions, wisely. In the work of circumstance, man acts wisely in the face of the stupidity and unpredictablility of circumstance…[it is] real or tangible; man is most often defeated by it. At his best, he meets it (the adverse kind, that is) on equal ground, and if he does not triumph, he does not lose, either. He distinguishes himself in the fight. That is all, and that is enough.” Seven Samurai’s setting and structure are more tangible (in America) than that of Sanshiro Sugata due to its universal plot line; Kurosawa uses this strength to draw us into his film. Viewing Sanshiro Sugata, one feels like an outsider, however Kurosawa does a much better job