Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai Imagery


The peasant farmers are keening over the knowledge that the bandits will return to kill them and steal their crop. One man says they should kill them and he is rebuked for saying it. Kurosawa composes a quick image of this man stepping to the outside of the kneeling community. It shows how his idea is outside the bounds of what they believe can and should be done. This kind of imagery, in which one man stands outside of the crowd, is used throughout the film to visually represent someone’s intellectual isolation.


Before the samurai arrive in their farming community, Manzo drops low to the ground in fear. Kurosawa shoots him from a low angle, and we see a hill behind the man with graves along the side. The peasant fears that the samurai will not be able to protect the village, and fears the harm they might bring as well, and his fears are magnified by his surroundings—death is all around them, lurking over the village from above. Later, the graves of the samurai and the villagers will hold other important meanings as well; for example, Kikuchiyo’s samurai burial represents an acceptance of him as a samurai despite his peasant birth.

Rice and Money

The farmers have been feeding the samurai with rice as a form of payment while they put together the seven samurai needed to protect the village. When the rice is stolen we see it scattered on the ground and Yohei begins to collect it off the floorboards as it is all they have left to eat. Kurosawa shoots his hands in close up as he picks up the rice grain by grain. Then coins appear in frame. They are from the samurai apprentice Katsushiro. The image conveys a sudden shift from the desperation of the peasants, as they scrounge for grains of rice, to an image of wealth or plenty; this foreshadows that the samurai are willing to give far more than expected in order to protect these people, and that they bring times of plenty with them (which come with the defeat of the bandits)

The mill wheel

The mill is an important part of the village and becomes the particular focus of several images throughout the film. It is particularly emphasized when we are first introduced to the old man, in a series of shots that close in on the wheel as it turns in the stream. This image serves many purposes: it highlights the old man’s importance in the village, as he lives in the mill house; it foreshadows the old man’s decision to make the villagers eat only millet; and it foreshadows the destruction of the mill when the bandits first attack. Its cyclical nature also may symbolize the changing seasons and the passage of time, which creates an urgency among the villagers to solve the bandit problem before they attack again. This cyclical imagery is important again later, when Kikuchiyo finds the orphaned baby after the old man and the young couple die—in this scene, Kikuchiyo’s shared story with the baby brings out the cyclical nature of the destruction and chaos of the era. When the wheel burns down and collapses, and ceases to turn, it foreshadows the coming victory of the villagers and samurai, which represents an end to this cycle.