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In 1185, the Heike family fights against the Minamoto family. After a bloody naval battle in the Pacific Ocean, Yoshitsune Minamoto defeats the enemy and the survivals commit suicide. When the triumphant Yoshitsune arrives in Kyoto, his brother, the Shogun Yoritomo, is lured and orders his men to arrest Yoshitsune. However, Yoshitsune escapes with six loyal samurais led by Benkei and they head to the country of his only friend Idehira Fukiwara. Nearby the border, after crossing the forest disguised as monks, their smiley conveyor Suruga discloses that they are Yoshitsune and the six samurais and advises that the fearful Kagiwara and his soldiers are waiting for them in the border to arrest them. Yoshitsune disguises as a carrier and Benkei has to convince Kagiwara that they are six monks traveling to collect donation to build a large temple in Kyoto. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The movie is seemingly based on an event from Japan's past, but it is really Kurosawa's allegory on Japan's condition at the end of World War Two. A prince, estranged from his brother, and six of his loyal retainers wander through the forest. They all look disheveled and hard up. They must cross a barrier manned by officials who are not exactly friendly to them, before they can move on to improving their life. The prince is disguised as a lowly porter and we rarely see his face. his retainers are warriors but are now forced to don monk's robes and indeed in passing through the barrier manned by the unfriendly forces (read American's) the lead monk must read a treatise in which peace is extolled as the reason for their existence. basically, the monks are Japanese elite, the porter is the Japanese public, the prince is the emperor, the barrier officials are the Americans, whose leader is wise and although he knows the truth allows the monks to live. They are many truths within truths here. Indeed, in the end the adviser to the emperor says, "we must move on (read from the feudal system) if we are to survive". a very fine movie, short yet poignant. one can easily see even in this early feature of his that Kurosawa is a master at symbolic imagery. By the way this movie was made in 1945, but not released in Japan until 1952. After watching it, I can see why it was delayed. It would have been extremely painful as a Japanese citizen to watch this in 1945, with their country in shambles around them. highly recommended.
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