This is one of the very few Classic Films on the list that I went in knowing the basic story of due to it’s stint on the TCM channel, which was a channel left on in the background quite a lot in my house. I never sat down and watched it, but I was always informed of the plot whenever I asked about it.
So, now I have watched it, what do I have to say about it?
Well, it’s good. It’s very good, in fact! But it is on the longer side of running times. It has the total time of 207 minutes, which is three hours and fourty-five minutes in lamens terms. That is just on ten minutes longer than the extended version of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. It’s not unusual for the era, hell Gone with the Wind is a full half an hour longer, but given the slow pace of the film and the use of subtitles which need your full attention, pitched against my own short attention span, I could really feel the length.
The basic story is about a poor village being under attack by bandits, who plan to come back at the end of harvest season in order to give them (the village) a chance to successfully flourish so that they (the bandits) will have more to raid.
Does that plot sound familiar to you, too? It took me a while, but it suddenly hit me when drafting this review: The Three Amigo’s, A Bug’s Life, The Magnificent Seven, to name but a few.
But back to The Seven Samurai.
During the reprieve from the bandits, the villagers manage to round up hungry Samurai warriors who are willing to work for food. It adds to the strain on their already dwindling stock, but the villagers stick to eating millet so that the Samurai can eat the best of the rice.
It’s hard to tell whether the Samurai are ever truly respected without any trace of fear the villagers had for them when they were finally rounded up, but one thing’s for sure, they’re afraid of the Bandits a lot more. They listen to the Samurai and they learn from the Samurai, and in the end, they try to protect each other, they fight together, and any loss is mourned together.
There’s a bit more to the villagers than what I might be making out. They aren’t a hiveminded community. There is one member so afraid of the reputation the Samurai have, he shaves his daughter’s hair and has her stay as far out of the way is possible, so that the Samurai don’t lure her in and take her innocence. It doesn’t work, she falls in love with the youngest Samurai and that all causes a bit of a scandal…
All in all, it really is a very good film, but it’s quite slow going. It’s a story that draws you in on an empathy factor, but there’s not much a person can relate to. There have been remakes in other forms, many times, and I think they might tell the story a bit better.
I’d recommend this film if I knew them to like this type of indepth, drawn out type of movie. I understand why it’s considered a must-see, but there’s no point seeing it if it’s not your type of movie or you can’t appreciate it for it’s slow pace. I won’t be watching it again, though.