Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Twilight Samurai

The Twilight Samurai
The Twilight Samurai is Yoji Yomada's first Samurai film. The film is set in north east Japan's Unasaka clan in the late nineteenth century. Hiroyuki Sanada plays Seibei Iguchi, a 50-koku Samurai. I believe koku is a unit of land and thus a direct representation of the societal status of a Samurai. Iguchi is thus a low ranking Samurai who really aspires for a peaceful existence as a farmer. After his wife's death he has to take care of his two young daughters. His old mother is senile and thus unable to help with household work. Further entwined with this plot is the story of Tomoe, a girl who had been Iguchi's childhood friend. She is divorced from her violent, drunkard husband. Even though he is attracted to her, Iguchi at first refuses a proposed marriage with Tomoe.
The tale takes a turn when the clan leader dies and Iguchi is called upon to kill a dissenter within the ranks. We now slowly learn that Iguchi had been an accomplished fighter in his day. Even though he is fighting with a short sword he matches well with his practiced opponent.

One particular scene that stands out to me is when Iguchi's elder daughter asks him - "Father if I learn to do needlework someday I can make kimonos. But what good will book learning ever do me?" Iguchi replies -"Well, it probably won't ever be as useful as needlework. But you know book learning gives you the power to think. However the world might change, if you have the power to think you'll always survive somehow."

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