The Filmmaking Style Of Akira Kurosawa, Explained: How Kurosawa Meddles With His Viewer’s Emotions

Countless filmmaking legends have cited Akira Kurosawa as an inspiration, including Martin Scorcese, George Miller, Guillermo del Toro, and many more. Many of the cinematic masterpieces he has helmed and authored showcase multifaceted protagonists and antagonists in original settings. Kurosawa captivates you with his masterful film directing by focusing on the scores of people who are challenged by internal conflicts and moral issues that always teach us something valuable. Kurosawa is a director that every film buff should check out at least once since his films are thrilling and enigmatic yet always highlight a greater purpose.


Akira originally wanted to be a painter and even got his start at the Proletarian Artist’s League. The vocation lasted just a few years. In response to an advertisement for associate directors, Akira was hired by PCL studios and placed under the tutelage of veteran filmmaker Kajiro Yamamoto.

Akira’s very first project, “Sanshiro Sugata”, depicts a battle between two martial arts academies (Judo and Jiu-Jitsu) and serves as a prime example of the tensions that may arise when different cultures collide. The movie takes place in the Meiji era, when tensions between the West and Japan were at their highest. “Rashomon”, directed by Akira Kurosawa, was the very first Japanese picture to be screened internationally. Unfortunately, there was a time when the genius himself had a hard time securing finance for his works. Kurosawa attempted suicide many times when circumstances became too difficult, first due to health problems and later on due to a dearth of cinema employment. Regardless, Kurosawa kept making films far into his old age, and they kept receiving glowing reviews.


Kurosawa Loved Manipulating His Viewer’s Emotions

Inspired by Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, “Ikiru” captures the immanent desperation of living a life without purpose. The term, which means “to live,” beautifully encapsulates the fear and happiness that comes with having a meaningful existence. Mr Watanabe, the protagonist, suffers from malignant disease and is forced to confront the meaninglessness of his work, the little life he has enjoyed, the few friends he has, and the individuals he’s offended through his boredom. Kurosawa evokes sympathy from viewers by placing them in the bleak, lonely world in which Watanabe struggles to make sense of his existence. Watanabe is on a liquor spree, and Akira utilizes the throngs of people to accentuate the terrible muddledness that is engulfing Watanabe.

Watanabe encounters a young lady called Toyo, and the energy she exudes sparks a fresh life in him. However, Kurosawa manipulates our sentiments by having the protagonist become more desperate. Toyo and Watanabe convene at a bistro; however, Kurosawa arranges for the two to feel embarrassed by suggesting that Toyo shouldn’t be spending time with an elderly gentleman. Watanabe feels embarrassed when Toyo abruptly exits the gathering. Now that Watanabe is left with nothing, he might easily give up and give in to the emptiness and endless dullness that surround him. Watanabe, recalling his first decision at the start of the film, resolves to use his ingenuity at work to aid a hamlet that requires a park. Kurosawa, in an attempt to render the task appears impossible, Kurosawa intentionally sets down heavy rainfall and muck when Watanbe arrives to check it out. However, this just makes Watanbe more heroic for rising to the task. Watanbe passes away, yet he will live on in the hearts of his fellow citizens forever. Akira guides you through the path of dealing with setbacks and recovering from them. Therefore, Kurosawa is aware that in order to depict a tale of progress and victory, it is necessary to first drive the protagonist to the most macabre region of defeat possible, allowing them the possibility to fight their way out.


Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon’ Questions The Meaning Of Faith

“Rashomon” is Akira’s most famous work and the staple of his filmmaking career. The story begins with a woodcutter and a monk recounting the death of a man and the ensuing three testimonies by outlaw Tajomaru, the widow, and the corpse to a commoner via a channel. The surprise is that all the witnesses, along with the dead man himself, say they are responsible for his death.

Akira amplifies the drama by stressing the relevance of each witness’s account to the present. While the woodsman and monk lack confidence in society due to the weather, the worker wonders why they ever had any faith. The guys go as far as attempting to build a bonfire. However, the pitiful blaze is representative of their dwindling optimism. Kurosawa is successful in creating a bleak atmosphere, just as he did with “Ikiru”. Apparently, the woodsman knew everything. However, he kept quiet since he had stolen a priceless blade from the murder site and also because his account would have made the murder seem even more heinous. Akira integrates an orphaned baby angle into the ongoing drama so brilliantly that it doesn’t feel out of place. Only the monk remains honest when the woodsman becomes a burglar and the commoner leaves. But just when hopelessness seems certain, the woodsman takes a decent, moral action by agreeing to foster the baby. The sun comes out, and the downpour pauses as a message of optimism in the face of adversity, a motif Kurosawa uses throughout his films.


Kurosawa Heightens The Importance Of Sacrifice Via The Seven Samurai

“The Seven Samurai” is widely recognized as Kurosawa’s greatest masterpiece and a cinematic marvel. The plot seems straightforward at first glance. The villagers of a tiny farming community employ a motley crew of seven Samurai to protect their produce from robbers. The problem is considerably more nuanced than that. The film centers on the quest for people who are prepared to battle for the lowly purpose of protecting farmland, even at the cost of their lives.

So when the peasants’ quest for a hero is almost at a conclusion, Kurosawa places them in a state of complete despair. Then they come upon Kambei, a warrior who gives his life to rescue an infant from a warlord. Many onlookers have gathered, and the peasants are watching in shock as they wonder whether what they’re witnessing is real. The next moments increase the suspense as the peasants, notwithstanding their fears, pursue Kambei. As a result, Kambei offers to be their penultimate, and he serves as a beacon of faith and strength throughout the film.


The warrior also displays qualities like modesty, compassion, grief, and even salvation. The warrior who was raised as a peasant, Kikuchiyo, is among the movie’s most fascinating personalities. He wavers between ferocity and idiocy in an attempt to win over the other males. While his decisions may have lethal consequences, he makes amends by ultimately displaying more fury and courage in battle than his fellow troops. And so, Kurosawa demonstrates the quality of having faith in people even when they don’t seem to have a clue where they’re going. The warriors bear the weight of their humanity and selflessness, which Kurosawa symbolizes via the coffins of their slain compatriots. Kambei claims that the warriors were defeated; however, the peasants triumphed since they are portrayed applauding and laughing like they’ve lost nothing.

Kurosawa collaborated with Steven Spielberg, another one of his renowned admirers and a Hollywood bigshot, on “Dreams,” an eight-part magical-realist story. Kurosawa said he modelled the film on recurring visions he’d had throughout his life. The movie premiered at Cannes in 1990, the same year Kurosawa has bestowed a Life-Time Achievement Award. Just a couple of years later, while polishing up a draft, Akira fell and fractured his back. The incident left him permanently disabled and confined to a wheelchair; he passed away from a seizure at the age of 88. The filmmaker had amassed a collection of films throughout the course of his extraordinary career that would cement his place as among the most famous and respected filmmakers on the planet.


Final Words

Since Akira has had such a long and fruitful run, any attempt to summarize his achievements and influence would inevitably leave out important details. Even so, this little sample already shows his narrative prowess. Kurosawa’s oeuvre is a tale of opposites, including diametrically opposed ideas like love and hate, optimism and despair, social strata and inner demons, and the delicate balance between humankind and nature. Akira Kurosawa’s work as a screenwriter and filmmaker warrants his presence in the pantheon of geniuses. With each new production, he creates a distinct and compelling on-screen persona, delivering a lot more than a mere distraction.

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Rishabh Shandilya
Rishabh Shandilya
Rishabh considers himself a superhero who is always at work trying to save the world from boredom. In his leisure time, he loves to watch more movies and play video games and tries to write about them to entertain his readers further. Rishabh likes to call himself a dedicated fan of Haruki Murakami, whose books are an escape from his real being.

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