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TWILIGHT SAMURAI- Movie review September 23, 2012

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
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My husband and I were looking for a good movie to watch on Netflix one night and TWILIGHT SAMURAI caught my attention.  I like films about the Samurai and it had more stars than most of the others movies, so we downloaded it. I was drawn into this quiet, but deep movie that slowly unfolds. The movie is set in Japan a few years before the Meiji restoration about 1868—a time period when the place of the Samurai was being questioned in a changing society.

 

The story is about Seibei Igulchi a low level samurai.   Seibei’s wife has just died and he is left to raise his two daughters and to care for his aging, senile mother.  The family lives in poverty and Seibei is in debt from paying for his wife’s medicines.  He works as an accountant, and his co-workers make fun of him when they go off to socialize after work and he hurries home to care for his children and work his small farm. 

 

The strength of Seibei’s character is revealed gradually.  He enjoys watching his two daughters grow up and compares it to watching blossoms open.  His younger daughter asks him why she should learn Confucianism at school.  She understands the value of knowing how to cook and clean, but not studying Confucianism .  He tells her Confucianism will help her learn to think and she’ll always be able to work if she can think.  As he interacts with his daughters we see how much he loves them.

 

One day, Seibei’s friend tells him that his sister Tomoe is returning home after divorcing her abusive husband.  Tomoe comes to visit Seibei and enjoys playing with his two daughters.  She tells the girls that she and Seibei were childhood friends. 

 When Tomoe’s x-husband shows up and hits her, Seibei challenges him to a duel.  Duels are forbidden, so Seibei fights with a stout stick against the x-husband’s sword.  Seibei wins the duel by knocking out the x-husband.

 

As a result of the duel, the men at work have a new respect for Seibei, and Tomoe gives him a letter to thank him.  She starts coming to his home to clean and help care of his daughters. Feelings blossom between them.  Tomoe’s brother asks Seibei if he would like to marry her, but Tomoe is from a higher social status and Seibei doesn’t want her to live in poverty because he saw how hard it was for his first wife. 

 More complications arise when Seibei is forced by his clan to try to kill a Samurai who has refused to commit seppuku. Seibei doesn’t want to fight him, because he wants to provide for his family and not risk being killed. Moreover he has become a quiet family man and no longer has the sprit of a warrior. Yet he is an honorable man and must do as the clan orders.  Much depth was brought to this action sequence, which plays out in unexpected ways.

 One of the things that struck me about the movie is how Seibei was able to accept his life of poverty and even find happiness in it because of his love of his daughters.  He always acts with grace and integrity despite his hard life. 

 After watching the movie I researched it and discovered in 2003 the movie swept the Japanese Academy Awards by winning in twelve categories including best picture, best director, best actor and best actress.  My own feeling that is was an exceptional film was confirmed. 

 I highly recommend this movie.  The photography is remarkable, the story is captivating, and acting fabulous.  I also liked the historical aspect of it.  The costumes, buildings, and settings are authentic and the story gives the viewer a glimpse into that time period and culture.

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