This film has yielded so much influence, from Lucas’ space operas to Leone’s macaroni westerns (as, fittingly, the Japanese referred to them). And today’s shot is just one breathtaking moment from the old master, Akira Kurosawa, in a film packed with them.
If you can’t remember this moment, or haven’t seen it yet, it’s best you watch the clip first. Mea culpa – the only high-quality youtube I could find is in Italian… but you don’t really need to know what is being said.
So, wow, right? The shot, I’m sure you’re onto, is at 3:06, and what a startling and amazing use of slow motion to create a moment of tremendous suspense, surprise, and dramatic weight. Even today, in a time when slow motion has been used to death, this moment is still utterly original and fresh, in my opinion.
Kurosawa’s Dynamic Samurais
This shot works in no small part due to the amazing sound design. Less is certainly more here – you could hear a pin drop after that flash of violence. A flurry of fearsome activity followed by absolute stillness – visually and audibly. The suspense is so beautiful. And this shot and scene couldn’t be more dynamic – loud and then silent, fast and then slow, brutal and then graceful – and therefore couldn’t be more compelling.
And what’s more, I don’t even think this is best use of slow motion in the film – there’s one even better – but it’s not on youtube. I plan on posting it myself, which will give me an excuse for another Seven Samurai post!