Akira Kurosawa: A Filmmaker Extraordinaire, The Master of Movement
What is the distinction between good filmmakers and great ones? Is it their artistic voice and expression or is it simply their unique perspective and experience? There might not be any straightforward answers. But one thing common with the great filmmakers is that they don’t seek external validation from audiences and critics alike. It is their intimate and personal expression that they pursue, that could be lucid in nature, yet profound and universal in context.
“Man is a genius when he dreams. Dream what you are capable of. The harder you dream it, the sooner it will come true.”
A quote by the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa who did not just create incredible masterpieces. But inspired the generations of film directors and artists.
Every Frame A Painting
Each Kurosawa film is a masterclass in itself and moves like no one else’s. Each one showcases the different types of motion and the ways to combine them. An educational breakdown of his films by Tony Zhou described the use of four types of movements Kurosawa uses in his films that is ‘The Nature’, ‘The Group’, ‘The Individual’ and ‘The Camera’ to provide meaning to the narrative. Using movement to cut to the next frame allows his scenes to flow smoothly. Then changes the rhythm to end the scene from going into static and back straight to movement again. This technique keeps the audience engaged as the outcome is always unpredictable. Acclaimed filmmaker Sidney Lumet once admirably said:
“For me, Kurosawa is the Beethoven of movie directors, it’s that recognizable full sound that Beethoven had, that is so unmistakable”
The Rashomon effect
A concept made famous by the writing style of the 1960's film Rashomon
This term is derived from the 1950’s period psychological drama film ‘Rashomon’ which is considered one of the greatest movies ever made. It is the first Japanese film to receive momentous international recognition. The term is described as a situation in which an event is described with contradictory narrative and interpretation by the individual characters involved. This is a method of writing in cinema where different perspectives and points of view are formed for the same event or incident. Films like Vantage point (2008), The Usual Suspects (1995), Gone Girl (2014) were greatly influenced by this method of writing in their storytelling.
Influence of Kurosawa on artists and their work
Akira Kurosawa inspired many great directors and tons of his influence can be seen in their popular movies. George Lucas’ original Star Wars (1977) has the samurai elements inspired by The Hidden Fortress.
Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai had some spectacular rainy action sequences which blended the movement and the atmosphere to create powerful and compelling set-pieces. This technique is very effective in bringing the emotions out of the motions of the characters in the frame. The directors of films such as Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Pirates of the Caribbean acknowledged this. Also, used the rain to build up the tension in their film’s action sequences.
The Seven Samurai formula of assembling up to save the townspeople from the bandit’s attack is very popular. This can be seen in countless movies throughout the history of world cinema. Some of these blockbusters such as The Expendables, The Avengers, Saving Private Ryan, Sholay, etc. used the same formula for their success.
In closure, I would say that it is in a law of nature that once in a while we get introduced to an extraordinary personality. They not only influence the generations to come but also leaves a legacy to inspire, innovate and discover. Making a positive impact in the lives of others. Akira Kurosawa was one of those individuals.
At last, I'll leave you with a video by Tony Zhou, breaking down a scene of "The Bad Sleep Well", a 1960 film by Akira Kurosawa. Enjoy!