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Seven Samurai: Mosuke the Mediator Snaps

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    lawless

    One thing it took me awhile to notice: Mosuke, who, out of the four farmers who go searching for samurai, is probably the one who gets the least screen time and attention, is the mediator of the group. Mostly this involves keeping Manzo and Rikichi from escalating their arguments over tactics (appeasement vs. aggression) into physical confrontations, but it also involves dragging Manzo, and everyone else, to see the Old Man once he realizes how much Manzo’s actions to “protect” Shino from the samurai (which do the opposite) have heightened everyone’s anxieties. Without a lot of fuss, the narrative establishes Mosuke as the most reasonable and level-headed of the villagers other than the Old Man himself.

    Yet Mosuke is the one who sparks the near-rebellion when informed that the three houses, his among them, on the other side of the stream won’t be defended. Is this out of character for him? Why might Kurosawa pick him as the character who goes nuts over this news?

    I think Kurosawa might be exploring the limits of reasonableness. Sure, Mosuke’s reasonable under most circumstances, and civic-minded in a way Manzo isn’t (although Manzo would probably protest at that), but threaten his home, and he’s not so reasonable.

    By the same token, we don’t see the frightening, commanding side of Kambei, and don’t necessarily even have a sense that he has one, until he is confronted by the near-mutiny Mosuke starts. That sword in his hand? It’s raised, and he makes it very clear (I think, anyway) that bloodshed is an option if the rebels don’t fall in line. The only other time Kambei comes close to being that scary is when he scolds Kikuchiyo for going off on his own to steal a second rifle, which, once again, is breaking the united front that they must maintain to have any hope of defeating the bandits.

    Thoughts? Comments?

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    Ugetsu

    Good question Lawless, its something I’ve been mulling over myself since my belated realisation that Rikichi’s wife must have been handed over, rather than kidnapped by the villagers.

    Lawless

    Why might Kurosawa pick him as the character who goes nuts over this news?

    I’ll offer one possible reason for focusing on Mosoke. He seems up to this point the most level headed and practical of the villagers. His sudden rebellion would seem out of character, unless you consider that underneath his conciliatory nature is an arch-pragmatist, which of course would make him an archetypal farmer.

    As you noted in your comments on the introduction, it is implied that Monzo is the villager who was responsible for Rikichi losing his wife – although in truth he is such a pathetic character it seems hard to believe that he would have been strong enough to overcome Rikichi’s presumed objections. On the other hand, a conciliator like Mosoke would be exactly the sort of de facto leader who may well have come up with a scheme to pay off the bandits with the villages most beautiful woman.

    The notion of handing over someone’s wife in this way seems to us to be appalling. But, when you really think about it, it is a very pragmatic response to their dire situation. It would be a very dishonourable thing to do, but if the alternative is for the village to be attacked, with anyone who resists killed, the women raped and the crops stolen, then it could well be seen as the lesser of two evils. And I think a key theme of the film is the contrast between the idealism of the Samurai with the hard headed pragmatism of the farmers. These people have no time for notions of ethics or honour – only the relatively well off can afford to dwell on such notions. Survival is all for the farmer. You help and support your neighbour because one day you may need her help. But otherwise, you do what is needed to survive. Only the (relatively) well off can afford to dwell on morality and ethics.

    I think the reason Kurosawa did not dwell on the mechanics of how Rikichi’s wife ended up in the hands of the bandits because he wanted us to speculate on which of the villagers was instrumental in organising it. Presumably, as Rikichi wasn’t blaming anyone in particular, it was a consensus presented to the couple as a fait accompli. But that still leaves us the question of who came up with the idea and persuaded everyone to go along with the deal. Mosoke seems the perfect candidate – respected, conciliatory, yet still a man who we’ve seen who would put his own interests above the others (or at least, would attempt to do so, until its shown that he could lose his life if he pressed his luck). He represents exactly the ruthless pragmatism that would allow the farmers to eventually triumph over the Samurai and their outdated codes of honour.

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    Vili Maunula

    It’s a good question. Especially since later when the bandits actually set fire on those houses, Mosuke doesn’t seem to care too much.

    Earlier in the film, just before the samurai come into town, Manzo and the other villagers ask Mosuke if he could hide their daughters in his house over the bridge. Whether this actually happens is not really explained as the scene moves elsewhere, but I wonder if this is where the daughters actually ended up being hidden from the samurai.

    If so, then I suppose the samurai’s idea of leaving out the three houses over the bridge would mean that the girls need to be relocated, which will expose them to the samurai. Indeed, the scene following this announcement (which comes after the intermission) begins with the girls out in the open, and Kikuchiyo wondering aloud where they were hidden.

    With the villagers’ fear of losing their daughters to the samurai in mind, perhaps Mosuke’s temporary act of rebellion is not so much to save his home, but a rather pragmatic attempt to keep the daughters hidden, allowing there to be one less worry on the minds of the parents?

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    Ugetsu

    Vili

    With the villagers’ fear of losing their daughters to the samurai in mind, perhaps Mosuke’s temporary act of rebellion is not so much to save his home, but a rather pragmatic attempt to keep the daughters hidden, allowing there to be one less worry on the minds of the parents?

    I think this is correct and a better explanation for his rebellion than the notion that doesn’t like the discipline. Perhaps also he is worried that he would be blamed by the samurai for the deception involved in hiding the girls. The later depiction of the samurai being somewhat amused, but not particularly surprised or bothered by the sudden appearance of all the young women I think is to indicate that the farmers are unnecessarily cynical about the samurai’s motives. It is clear that the samurai themselves are as anxious as the farmers to keep a sexual distance between themselves and temptation in the form of the local girls. This is of course making a distinction between the noble ideals upheld by these ‘good’ samurai and the reality of rape and theft the farmers would have experienced at the hands of samurai on the march in the past.

    It is one of the constant frustrations for me in watching AK’s films that there are so many aspects which would I think have been very obvious to the contemporary audience, but become puzzles for those of us without Japanese, or for that matter literate in reading the subtle signals of class distinctions and so on that are unique to every culture. I think that one theme of the film is not just the hostility between the samurai and the farmer class, but also the gulf of misunderstanding between them. The farmers simply don’t understand the samurai and their motivations, and the samurai likewise have sympathies with them, but only a limited understanding of the farmers.

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    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: It is clear that the samurai themselves are as anxious as the farmers to keep a sexual distance between themselves and temptation in the form of the local girls.

    This perhaps drifts a little off-topic, but I do wonder about Kyuzo’s sexual needs. There is that scene where he abruptly decides to leave the other samurai and go out into the rain “to practice”. Is it really some sort of a bushido thing, or is he actually driven out by Kikuchiyo, who has just been complaining that he needs a woman? And if he leaves because of Kikuchiyo, is it because Kikuchiyo is annoyingly loud, or because Kikuchiyo is saying something that Kyuzo is trying to push off his own mind?

    The film actually appears to hint a little towards the latter interpretation. Out in the rain, Kyuzo spots Shino, and seems about to go up to her when he notices Katsushiro. I wonder what would have happened had Katsushiro not appeared at that point.

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    Ugetsu

    Vili

    This perhaps drifts a little off-topic, but I do wonder about Kyuzo’s sexual needs. There is that scene where he abruptly decides to leave the other samurai and go out into the rain “to practice”. Is it really some sort of a bushido thing, or is he actually driven out by Kikuchiyo, who has just been complaining that he needs a woman? And if he leaves because of Kikuchiyo, is it because Kikuchiyo is annoyingly loud, or because Kikuchiyo is saying something that Kyuzo is trying to push off his own mind?

    I think its a really good little scene which manages to humanise Kyuzo, while also driving the narrative forward. I interpret it the same way you do. Kyuzo we can imagine is someone who forswore women to dedicate himself to his craft, but he is still human. Kikuchiyo’s constant harping on about women both annoyed him and reminded him of things he didn’t want reminding of, so he went for the equivalent of a cold shower.

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