This film is dedicated to the universal (geographically and historically) human situation of being at war. For the majority of human beings readily brainwashed by the variant of ideology of belligerency (created by the megalomaniacal decision-makers obsessed with glory, weapons and money), being at war and in fight is not only normal, but an experience full of invigorating excitement. War creates for them promising possibilities – to become a hero, to be forever alive (in the grateful memory of people), to have the opportunity to abreact hate (which overwhelms the individual’s emotional container), to prove in battle that you are better, stronger, more courageous and more skillful fighter than the enemy and be honored to serve the fetishes you worship.

War is one of the favorite human occupation – either as a dream about it in the souls of leaders and profiteers, or in the phase of planning and preparation, or in actuality. Kurosawa made his “The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail” during WWII. The rivalry between feudal lords in the 12th century (the plot of Kurosawa’s film) was filmed in close proximity to the time of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The ancient war in Kurosawa’s film found a tune of similarity with the modern one, but this similarity is not obvious – all wars are different as different historical epochs are, but Kurosawa depicts the essence of wars not directly but through being defeated by the sophisticated efforts of the two main characters – Benkei (the leader of Lord Yoshitsune‘s bodyguards) and Togashi (the commander of the barrier station guarding the border which Benkei and his group are trying to cross). The clash between Benkei and Togashi’s men is inevitable – the viewers of the film can attest to that. But something strange started to happen while Benkei and Togashi began their séance of interrogation (of Benkei by Togashi). In the miracle that unfolds we see how Kurosawa uses the juxtaposition of the two wars separated by the eight centuries as a possibility of discovering the chance for the maintaining peace. Theater Noh play becomes a model for avoiding military confrontation. Ancient art (Japanese theater) through uniting with modern art (Kurosawa’s film) became an inspiration for anti-war enthusiasm.

Much later, in his “Hidden Fortress” (1958) Kurosawa continues his research into personalities of exceptional human beings and their psychological resources helping to stop the burgeoning military clash, which he started in “The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail”. The duel between the two generals in the “Hidden Fortress” becomes an experiment and a psychological manual in how to use military force not for war-making but for war-prevention. It is exactly the most courageous among military commanders can become creators of anti-war military strategies and implement their practical application, and the most talented and educated among civilians join them.

Of course, such an exuberantly creative director as Kurosawa cannot just rely on theater Noh play and its elaboration in Kabuki in his “Tiger’s Tail” – he enriches it with his metaphoric classification of different historical periods which human societies have gone and still are going through, periods Kurosawa characterizes by using poetic songs returning to the viewers’ memory of the film.

Benkei (sitting on the ground in the center – Denjiro Okoshi) is very close to being arrested by Togashi (Susumu Fujita – sitting on a chair in the center)

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Porter (Kenichi Enomoto) and a clown by the calling of his soul is the personification of a modern man – a person beyond the meaning of life, the one who is just reacting on circumstances by hopelessly conformist gestures of adaptation.

Porter/clown is participating in a drinking party in the honor of Benkei

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When the “traveling monks-bodyguards” and Lord Joshitsune dressed as a commoner, departed after the unplanned celebration, our porter is awakened after heavy drinking only to find himself all alone in the wilderness. And only long cloud in the sky, marking the amazing path of Benkei is the trace of the reality of what’s happened.

Posted on Feb, 19 2016 –   Akira Kurosawa’s “The Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tail” (1945) – Incompatibility Between Military And Existential Heroism by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Sep, 5 2009 –   Akira Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress” (1958) – Kurosawa’s Instructions to the Heads of States (Episode of a Duel between two Generals)  by Acting-Out Politics