Akira Kurosawa has stood the test of time as one of the most influential filmmakers ever, and his 1954 big-budget historical film Seven Samurai is a huge part of that legacy. A t the time, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was the most expensive film ever made in Japan, and you can certainly see that money on the screen as outstrips most modern films in ambition and scope.
In this 1954 samurai epic, a farming village is beset by bandits and in desperation they hire a group of seven samurai to protect them.
While much of the filmmaking and story might seem commonplace to us now, that is because this film has been copied countless times (including the literal Western remake “The Magnificent Seven”) and indeed this is probably the archetype of all “getting the gang together” films, stretching from plucky space samurai in Star Wars to heist films like Ocean’s Eleven.
In episode three of Reel History season 2 we dive deep into Japanese history, zooming all the way back to the first emperor of Japan — supposedly the start of the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world — and track the societal developments that led to the formation of a fearsome warrior class and the outbreak of Sengoku Jidai (“Warring states period”, 1467 – 1615″), the intense century of civil war during which Seven Samurai takes place.
Like last week’s Apocalypto we’re happy to move beyond the limits of European history but that’s not the only change this week! As a once-in-a-lifetime treat, Jakob has taken over the role of researcher and presenter for this era, guiding us from retired emperors to mongol invasions, colour-coded hats to bushido myths… It’s time to show what you know about Japanese history!
“A History of Japan” by John Godwin Caiger and Richard Mason
“Bushido” by Inazo Nitobe
We also recommend these three YouTube channels: Linfamy, Voices of the past, The Shogunate