12 September 2010

20 Scripts in 30 Days: Number 6 The Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa

Danger always strikes when everything seems fine.

The Seven Samurai is one of the greatest films ever made. It has everything you could want in an epic: romance, hard-won wisdom, battles. The plot's simple. A village, under the threat of attacks by bandits, hire samurai to protect them. Within that structure -- simple enough to work for an animated movie like A Bug's Life -- Kurosawa's able to weave a series of subplots that touch on different facets of his theme. The action's united by a simple spine: defend the village. The script is united by it's overall theme, which is: what is courage, or more broadly, what does it mean to be a man?

Heroism here is similar to what it was in Ikiru. To be a hero is to be courageous, stoic, hopeless and generous. You act without expectation of reward; the action is its own reward.

They say it's easier to learn from bad scripts and movies than good ones.  Still, reading this I was impressed again with the need for a buffoon or a clown -- just like Shakespeare. Kikuchiyo, played by Toshiro Mifune, works as a buffoon, but more like an id. Impulsive, rash, emotional, he stands in for the audience in a way that the very noble Gorobei cannot. Gorobei is a kind of superman, the perfect bushido. Kikuchiyo is all too human. The main characters form a kind of template that you can see in a lot of later sixties action movies, as well. The stoic and brilliant leader, the callow youth, the robust action man, the slick one who's almost inhumanly good at his job, and the random crazy guy. 

I was overwhelmed, this time, with the huge ambition of the project. Kurosawa aimed at Shakespeare and John Ford as well as wanting to entertain a broad audience (just like Shakespeare and Ford).

The original script, like the complete version of the film, has been lost. What I read was a transcription of the dialogue, with the action and angles described. Very tough read what with seven names to keep track of, the rest of the characters. It was a surprisingly tough slog because no concessions were made to the reader, rather than the viewer.

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