When Sanjuro, the wandering samurai, by choice of chance appeared in the area where the events of the film were taking place, he was able to be motivated by compassion towards the young samurais in danger by the right wing plotters. Sanjuro is a very experienced person, but even for him it was not easy to help these young people because of the some’s of them pathetic simplemindedness and prejudicial belief in the power of goodness (in those with democratic sensibility) and the others’ stubborn suspiciousness and hierarchical pride (in those with conservative sensibility).

In the still above we see a group of nice hearted young people, whom the main character (Sanjuro) will try to help in spite of their unlucky combination of mental nearsightedness and farsightedness. They are discussing their plans of actions against the plotters. The first impression created by this shot is that the young people with good intentions are sitting inside a box of their drastic limitations in understanding of the situation they are planning to reverse. Of course, Kurosawa here describes not only the young personages of this particular film, but young people in general and how they’re prone to think. According to Sanjuro, they’re politically disoriented either by their pernicious idealism (the first group) or by their even more pernicious dogmatism (the second group). Their understanding of politics is limited not only by the metaphor of shack/box but by the bars covering the windows. Even following Sanjuro’s recommendations and instructions they found ways to make fatal mistakes and ruin the whole situation because of their mental awkwardness. Thank god, their benefactor is patient, not irritable teacher and supernaturally good at swordplay.

Rapport Between Thinking and Understanding
In this and the following picture Kurosawa is analyzing the difference between a democratic and conservative mind. Sanjuro (Tosiro Mifune) is trying to trick the plotters, and the leader of the young samurais is asking him the right questions – look at the intelligence of his face and the desire to understand what Sanjuro is planning in a concrete moment in the middle of permanently changing circumstances.

Liberal vs. Conservative Perception of Thinking
In comparison with the young person from the previous shot – with a democratic: rational, opened and concentrated mind (here he is the third to the right of Sanjuro), face of the guy with a conservative sensibility is distorted by the intensity of his emotion of being overwhelmed by Sanjuro’s “mysterious” intentions. He is either extremely surprised by what he thinks Sanjuro wants to do, and this makes him suspicious, as if, Sanjuro wants to fool all of them, or he imagines that Sanjuro possesses a kind of supernatural power which cannot be controlled. In other words, where the democratic mind is sharp yet balanced, the conservative one jumps from one extreme to another.

In the film Kurosawa depicts nine young samurais (as many as justices in American Supreme Court). At the end of the film they supposed to decide – what to do with the plotters? Will it be five against four for a winning opinion?

Posted on – April/26/’10 –   Akira Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro” (1962) – A Homeless Pauper by Moral Reasons as a Role Model* by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on July/5/’14 –   “Sanjuro” (1962), by Akira Kurosawa by Acting-Out Politics