I have never been so emotionally attached to a film not until watching Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1954 film – the Seven Samurai. A 3-hour epic samurai film I watched three times and I cry every time, not because of the story but the “geniusness” of how it is made!
Yep, it’s three hours but it’s very fast paced with so many layers and layers of great acting, great cinematography, great story-telling, great motivators, great composition, great social references, and of course great directing.
On top of all those greatness, I got 9 take-aways I’ll treasure in my filmmaker’s box.
1. Positioning of actors in the frame.
Learn to position them that it is aesthetically and visually pleasing yet natural and not scripted. In my case, I have to be very aware of the instances that you can see visually that our actor is finding himself “unconsciously” the marker.
2. Two-shots (even full body shots) are very important to portay body language of actors.
These is even more helpful even in dialogue. Other than OTS and close-ups during dialogue cutting in their two-shots and seeing how their whole body reacts will always work.
3. Objects as characters
Use objects as characters by placing them in the foreground if they are part of the story, the move used rice, coins and even like this sword!
4. Body Position of Actors is also important
It was very common in Seven Samurai how the simple standing up and sitting down tells so much about the current situation and even emotional state of the character. I’ll have to be more aware of this one in ours.
Another best example would be how Rikichi literally dove to the ground and cried after seeing his wife die.
5. Camera Movement
They are very particular to the basics. One thing new for me though is their regular use of tracking shots also as revealing shots for objects and characters important in the scene.
6. Proper Introduction of Main Characters
Scenes where the main actors are being introduced are carefully designed that even if it’s a very short 1 minute scene audience can already tell a lot about them.
Kambei, the leader Samurai, was introduced in the film as a Samurai who disguises himself to be a priest so he can save a kidnapped child. Later on in the movie he actually will be revered like a priest and a person with authority.
The unforgettable Kikuchiyo was introduced in a scene were he proudly show to the team a stolen birth certificate to tell them that he really is a Samurai. However, with no formal education, he didn’t read that the certificate reads 13 years old. And throughout the film Kikuchiyo indeed acts as this innocent, playful, and daring 13 year old kid.
The friendly character of Gorobei first came into the story with a scene of him with the kids.
The serious samurai Kyuzo was established with a scene showing his prowess in sword fight. Check out his first scene:
7. Symbolism in Locations
The place where the farmers gather and cry their hearts out upon knowing that the Bandits will ravaged them again, is also the same place where they held their spears and listened to Kambei talk and finally lead them to fight. And more…
9. Epic Compositions
Putting in 6 people in a frame with 5 different streams of thoughts and these being visually seen on the screen plus all their movements and blocking totally adds depth and power to the movie. Look at all these. Also, see how all of the characters are positioned properly that no one is blocked behind.
Another simple yet perfectly executed scene is when the village people consulted with the Elder. The elder’s face is on center screen and the camera tracks on time to everyone who talks in the room. Choreographed, yes, but perfect smooth and natural.
Here are other great epic shot compositions!
And of course this!
To the better version of me,
Better Filmmaker Series is my own way – no other way – to learn as much as I can and become a better filmmaker. Plus, sharing it would be super cool!