Family Matters: A short analysis of Seibei’s exchange with his wife and son in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo

Seibei’s family has some interesting dynamics that are revealed through dialogue and characterization, but also through directorial decisions. I’ll be examining a scene early in the film, in which Seibei’s wife drags him away from Yojimbo to have a tense family meeting with him and their son, in which they decide to use Yojimbo’s services and then kill him to keep their money. The relationship between the son and his parents, characteristics of the son, and Yojimbo’s perceived power and sense of mystery are shown through various directorial techniques.

 

While the family is discussing their plan to kill Yojimbo, Yojimbo himself is eavesdropping outside a window with a crowd of concubines. At one point during the conversation, he turns to the girls and makes a funny face as they watch in surprise. This is to establish, without any dialogue or exposition, the casual and disinterested nature of Yojimbo’s character. He is unphased by any of the happenings around him. Also, as discussed in the Every Frame a Painting video on Kurosawa, the movement of the crowd of concubines serves to emphasize their reactions to Yojimbo. Their movements, gasps, and looks of shock at the situation are exaggerated, and the use of a group further emphasizes Yojimbo’s aura of mystery and power.

 

During the discussion, Seibei, his wife, and his son all have their faces uncomfortably close together taking up most of the frame. Seibei and his wife are facing each other, with their son between them. The room they are in has low, gloomy lighting. The large amount of space that Seibei and his wife take up  is indicative of their overbearing, controlling relationship with their son. The son, placed by Kurosawa between his two parents, is “engulfed” in a way by these two authority figures, as if his life revolves around their whims and desires. This is, of course, shown through dialogue when Seibei insults his son’s kill count but Kurosawa’s directorial techniques work to emphasize and exaggerate the relationship between the members of this family.

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