Appearing in Time magazine in 2005 as one of the top 100 films of all time, this dark comedy was created towards the end of Akira Kurosawa’s most productive period, between 1950 and the mid-1960s. One of his predominant themes during this time was the necessity for human action during periods of tyranny and cruelty. Sanjuro Kuwabatake (Toshiro Mifune) is a drifting samurai who exists as the wind blows, having no authoritative loyalties but a certain sense of social responsibility.
Set in 1860 Japan, a town is divided by two feuding factions. Sanjuro ultimately acts as peacemaker, however, his services are rendered at a very high price. The irony that resides at the heart of the film is that the title, which translates as “The Bodyguard,” sets up a narrative where bodies are annihilated rather than preserved. The samurai claims no definitive identity and sets the dueling factions towards complete destruction.
It seems to be the organic nature of the body, or mortality, that is highlighted in this film along with the precarious play between fate and chance. At the beginning of the film, Sanjuro throws a stick up into the air, and letting it fall, proceeds to travel in the direction it points. Kurosawa could be considered the lighter, more optimistic Dostoevsky of Japanese cinema.
- Story B+
- Acting A-
- Visuals A-
- Originality/Innovation B+
- Enjoyability A-
- Overall A-