Foreign-made films provide an excellent and entertaining source to understand other cultures. "The Seven Samurai," by the critically acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa, is a good example. This film, set in 16th century Japan, portrays the upheavals of the time, as well as key aspects that make up Japanese culture.
Kurosawa has crafted a fascinating, intricate story set in a small farming village constantly attacked by bandits. To protect their livelihood, the farmers decide to hire several samurai (professional soldiers) to defend the village. With nothing to offer but food and thanks, they slowly collect a group of seven honorable ronin (samurai who no longer have a feudal lord to whom they are bound). While the ensuing plot is somewhat violent, a closer look at the film reveals a wealth of information the casual viewer might miss.
The samurai themselves demonstrate a key facet of Japanese culture: honor and the sense of obligation to the defenseless. The seven who agree to defend the village do so out of honor, feeling it is their duty to protect the weak. Unfortunately, not all the Japanese warriors are quite as understanding and kind as the heroes.
"The Seven Samurai" shows refreshing insight into the workings of feudal Japan. It accurately portrays the lives of peasants and samurai and the relationship between the two. The interesting plot and dynamic characters make it a fascinating film. It is a masterful piece that provides an exciting human drama and fascinating insights into a unique culture
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.