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Seven Samurai

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The movie Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa, is about peasants, masterless samurai (ronin) and bandits (former samurai) during Japan's time of political disunity, social fluidity and warring lords and clans – the mid-1500s.

The film begins with a description of "endless conflict" having left the countryside overrun by bandits and "peaceable folk living in terror of the thunder of approaching hooves."

On a hill above his village, a farmer sees bandits, about forty strong, on horseback. The bandits are just passing by and tell themselves they will return in a few months after the harvest is in.

The farmer reports his sighting the bandits, and a large circle of men and women sit together to discuss and complain:

"Is there is no god to protect us?"

"Land tax, forced labor, war, drought, and now bandits."

"The gods want us farmers dead!"

"That's right. We're better off dead."

Someone suggests getting help from the local authority, and she adds that the magistrate should do more than just collect taxes. Another replies:

"Might as well hand over our rice to the bandits and hang ourselves."

An enraged young man demands that they fight. Another replies:

"And when we lose they'll slaughter us all, down to the last woman and child."

"It's kill or be killed," says another.

"We can't defy the powerful," someone says. "When the bandits come we'll greet them meekly and quietly hand over our barley and plead with them to leave just enough for us to survive."

The farmers decide to consult with an elderly, experienced man among them. They conclude, with some skepticism, that they will look for some masterless, hungry samurai willing to help them fight the bandits in exchange for food.

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