ALL3920 Week 15

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Position papers please.

Writing Assignment #2

Your second and final paper is due, Tuesday, May 11th.

It should be 8-10 pages long. You must have a minimum
of five references to books, journal articles, or websites that
were not assigned reading for the class. Only one of the five
may be a website and the website must be written by someone
with academic credentials or have references/links in support
of the arguments it makes.

You must present a specific methodology in terms of which you
are reading your film. You are required to refer to a specific
chapter/s in Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, unless you
contact the instructor by e-mail for permission to use an
alternative methodological approach. Your paper will be
marked down if you break this rule, so either check Tyson
or send an e-mail to me about an alternative. Tyson's book is on
two hour loan in Wilson library reserve. You should choose
one of these perspectives as the ground of your interpretation.
You may combine them if you feel confident that will strengthen
your reading.

Other recommended resources:
Hayward, Susan, Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts available
as an electronic resource by way of the Wilson library catalog

Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, also available in hard copy
or as an electronic resource through the Wilson library catalog.
You may use the Kodansha Encyclopedia to get a reliable overview
of a particular period in Japanese history, or to look up information
on fiction, politics, law, etc. It is generally very useful for the sort of
historical background information you would use for a new historicist
reading of a film.

21 Comments

Sword of Doom

The film begins with a swords man who suddenly slays an old man who seems to be praying. He runs into another man along the path and later finds out that he is a thief that has just passed. Following, he is asked to lose a match so that his opponent may inherit a fencing school. A guest then arrives and we find out she is the wife of this opponent. She offers herself to him so that he will lose the match, and her husband divorces her making her go back to her parents. Usugi ends up making a foul and is killed by Ryunosuke. Ryunosuke then proceeds to escape and runs into Hama who asks to come along. She tells him that there is an ambush and as he walks on men appear from behind the trees. It jumps to the scene where we see Hama and a child, and we learn that Ryunosuke has become some assassin. Later on rainy night, Ryunosuke assassinates the man. Later on in the film Hama tries to kill Ryunosuke by he ends up killing her in the garden. We see that the lady who meets Ryunosuke later is the same girl we see in the beginning. In that room, we see the images of all the people that he once killed. HE then goes insane and starts to go on rampage. The film ends with a still shot of his sword still in mid air.

The first scene with Ryunosuke and the old man is interesting. After killing the old man there is a close up of Ryunosuke’s face and you can see that he feels no guilt at all. There are quite a lot of close ups in this film. The close up of Hama after meeting with Ryunosuke is most expressive as we can see that she is ashamed. Another great cinematography is the ambush scene where the men reveal themselves and you can see down the road and the men appear one by one. The following fight scene is good although the final scene where we see the back of Ryunosuke as the dead bodies lay scattered on the ground is quite amazing. Another great close up scene is that of Ryunosuke after he kills the fencing master where he looks much unfocused. There is a great fighting scene where we see them battle in the snow. Ryunosuke watches as one man takes on a group of me and defeats them easily we can see the surprise and fear on his face. There is a line that “an evil soul means an evil sword” this is quite a powerful line since in many films the sword is considered the soul.

The costumes were quite beautiful, especially the kimonos. The sword and fighting styles were well done by the actors. What contributed most to the mood of the film was the music they used to set the mood. The burning of the house is also very incredible. The fact that our main character does not follow the type of hero or even anti is different. We follow the story of a man with great skills but is a bad guy or villain in the film, leaving us with no hero. This film comes to a roundabout end when we find out that the girl geisha is the daughter of the man Ryunosuke killed earlier. Although the ending is open ended it possibly leaves room for a sequel.

Sword of Doom

The film begins with a swords man who suddenly slays an old man who seems to be praying. He runs into another man along the path and later finds out that he is a thief that has just passed. Following, he is asked to lose a match so that his opponent may inherit a fencing school. A guest then arrives and we find out she is the wife of this opponent. She offers herself to him so that he will lose the match, and her husband divorces her making her go back to her parents. Usugi ends up making a foul and is killed by Ryunosuke. Ryunosuke then proceeds to escape and runs into Hama who asks to come along. She tells him that there is an ambush and as he walks on men appear from behind the trees. It jumps to the scene where we see Hama and a child, and we learn that Ryunosuke has become some assassin. Later on rainy night, Ryunosuke assassinates the man. Later on in the film Hama tries to kill Ryunosuke by he ends up killing her in the garden. We see that the lady who meets Ryunosuke later is the same girl we see in the beginning. In that room, we see the images of all the people that he once killed. HE then goes insane and starts to go on rampage. The film ends with a still shot of his sword still in mid air.

The first scene with Ryunosuke and the old man is interesting. After killing the old man there is a close up of Ryunosuke’s face and you can see that he feels no guilt at all. There are quite a lot of close ups in this film. The close up of Hama after meeting with Ryunosuke is most expressive as we can see that she is ashamed. Another great cinematography is the ambush scene where the men reveal themselves and you can see down the road and the men appear one by one. The following fight scene is good although the final scene where we see the back of Ryunosuke as the dead bodies lay scattered on the ground is quite amazing. Another great close up scene is that of Ryunosuke after he kills the fencing master where he looks much unfocused. There is a great fighting scene where we see them battle in the snow. Ryunosuke watches as one man takes on a group of me and defeats them easily we can see the surprise and fear on his face. There is a line that “an evil soul means an evil sword” this is quite a powerful line since in many films the sword is considered the soul.

The costumes were quite beautiful, especially the kimonos. The sword and fighting styles were well done by the actors. What contributed most to the mood of the film was the music they used to set the mood. The burning of the house is also very incredible. The fact that our main character does not follow the type of hero or even anti is different. We follow the story of a man with great skills but is a bad guy or villain in the film, leaving us with no hero. This film comes to a roundabout end when we find out that the girl geisha is the daughter of the man Ryunosuke killed earlier. Although the ending is open ended it possibly leaves room for a sequel.

Sword of Doom was an entertaining film but a little strange. I thought the cinematography was very fluid and good in this movie. For example, I liked when the camera does a "U" shape around Ryunosuke's head after he takes down several men. This is one of the first times we see the derranged look on Ryunosuke's face after he kills. I noticed an extreme close up on Hama's face when she realizes Ryunosukes is going to abaondon her and the baby right before he kills her and leaves the baby to die. This brings me to my next point. I do not like Ryunosuke! He is a horrible, creepy, crazy person! He always has these frightening expressions and strange laughs after he kills. We find out in the end that he actually is crazy! Omatsu (who I liked very much) tricks Ryunosuke into thinking there are ghost haunting him and he goes absolutely insane, which was actually a really cool scene. I thought it was a little silly though when the men he is attacking throw a bunch of pillows at him. Although the ending shot was really cool, I felt annoyed because the story hadn't ended yet.

There were some things that I thought were confusing or weird. First of all, the baby's haircut. That was strange. I thought it was kinda silly when Ryunosuke is about to rape Hama and it show a machine pounding a hole in the ground...symbolism anyone? I thought it was also strange that Hama wants to run away with Ryunosuke after what he did to her. Overall, I liked this movie.

Sword of Doom began with a scene that immediately allowed the audience to pass judgment on the character Ryunosuke. The first time the audience met him, he had killed an old man who was praying to a shrine of Buddha for what appeared to be no reason at all. Later in a conversation with his father we learn more about Ryonosuke’s personality. He is known as heartless, not only as a swordsman who attacks people when they are unguarded, but he is also cruel in his mind and soul. Hama, Utsugi’s wife, comes to Ryunosuke pretending that she is Utsugi’s sister begging for him to not kill Utsugi in the battle to become the fencing master. Ryonosuke states that he has no trust for anyone except for his sowrd, and that when he fights he has no family. Just like the audience, Hama views Ryunosuke as a cruel man yet continues to beg. Finally Ryunosuke states that a swordsman is just as proud of his skill as a woman her chastity, and basically asks her to give up her chastity to him and he will spare the life of Utsugi.
There were a lot of interesting shots in this film. The first thing that I noticed was the use of props to create a cool shot. For example with the use of Ryunosuke’s hat. There are many times where the camera does a close up of his face and you can see his eyes peering through his straw hat. There were also many shots where the camera would be at about waist height looking up into Ryunosuke’s hat so that the audience could see his entire face. Not only was it a cool angle, but it also made him seem taller, bigger, and more powerful.

The Sword of Doom is a remarkably gripping film highlighting the artistic culture of the time through its cinematography. There is a rhythm throughout the film, enhanced by the soundtrack. This rhythm carries the story along, while intriguing the viewer to indulge further into the film. From the film’s start, the utilization of sounds from the natural world enhances the psyche’s feel of the film, as well as uplifting the soundtrack. The bells resounding as Omatsu and her grandfather partake their journey to Edo trail behind the two as their way is made to a shrine atop a hill. The natural sounds interweaved into the soundtrack bring a very physical sense to the viewer, almost taking one out of their physical body and assisting the mind’s eye in witnessing the film’s adventure.
Our film’s protagonist, Ryunosuke, enters in stunning garb, donning mysterious black robes and a loosely woven hat, lose enough for his intense stare to visually capture onto anything beyond the straw. After the film’s completion, I thought about the different constructs presented through Ryunosuke’s character. The black and white scheme laid out from the film’s start presents the film through a visual dichotomy. This dichotomy transcends itself beyond the visual to suggest upon the constructs of the world in Sword of Doom. It suggests to me that in this cinematic world, there is only black and white; good and evil, male and female, and sword and body. Throughout the film Ryunosuke is almost placed into a trance by his sword; his device of liberation. As others around him come to vocalize this, it sets off a reaction within Ryunosuke, asserting him to meditate upon their words, “The sword is like the Soul,” and, “Evil mind: evil sword”. While these quotes do not surface their direct meaning, they act as proverbs, provoking thought into the insight behind them.
It is once Ryunosuke realizes the true connection between his physical body, his spiritual-mental body, and his sword, that all hell breaks loose. In my reading, Ryunosuke’s sword acts as his tool of liberation; it frees himself from the constructs of the world, allowing him to maintain his own worldly order. When it is used, it is as if this insight from the power of potential control trips Ryunosuke out, leaving him in a heightened state of mind (hence the trippin’ eyes). However once Ryunosuke comes to understand his ignorance, it is as if all the negative karma he built up throughout his story comes back at him, in a scene which visually showcases the psychological trip he is experiencing in his mind.
All in all, the elements within the film easily make it one of my favorite thus far. I gained an appreciation for black and white cinema from the class’s earlier films, and was almost unhappy about the change to color. Seeing how the utilization of black and white was presented in an artistic manner really impressed me. There are some very visually stunning shots in this film, and if it had been shot in color, I think it would have overcomplicated the deeper messages better expressed through a visually simplistic lens.

Sword of Doom was interesting, especially the last twenty minutes or so. What I found distracting and disengaging about the beginning of the film—and I guess by “beginning” I mean almost all of it—was the complete lack of relatability in the main character. Anti-heroes, even nihilistic ones, are usually grounded in some sort of “humanness” that makes the character, no matter how extraordinary, to some degree relatable for an audience that isn’t necessarily nihilistic or interested in defying the legal system to a great extent. One way this is often done is with a back-story. “V For Vendetta,” for instance, features a protagonist who is a terrorist and a killer (though he is only those things to unjust forces), but who remains, up until three-fourths of the way through, an image, and not a “person.” It is not until after his back-story is revealed that we discover some aspect of his motivations or some shade of his human “face” is revealed. In this film, however, the closest we come to that is his father being a drunk. But it is never made clear, or really even implied, that this causes Ryunosuke to become the amoral murderer he ends up as. He never breaks a sweat in any fight (until the end); he never fails or comes close to failing (until the end); and he maintains throughout almost the exact same glassy, quietly insane expression. Not until about two-thirds through does he finally begin to conceive of the notion that his skills might not be undefeatable. And not until the very end does he begin to show some semblance of remorse for having killed who he’s killed—he does not regret the murders, per se, but is instead haunted by them. I believe Ryunosuke smiled or laughed a grand total of four times throughout the film. Once was when he was about to rape the girl; another when he laughed hysterically about the prospect of torturing Hyoma to death. I, like most, find complexity in a character to be fulfilling. If the character is too two-dimensional, he becomes either clichéd or simply unrelatable, as in this case. But at the end, he finally became, at least partially, “human.” I especially liked the cliffhanger ending, sort of reminding me of Butch Cassidy, although in the latter their deaths were implied and in the former, apparently, his death was not since two sequels were supposed to be made but never were. Had I not known that, however, I might have assumed his death was implied.

The Sword of Doom, directed by Kihachi Okamoto, starts off with the protagonist, Ryunosuke Tsuke, as he slays an old man. Ryunosuke is a samurai with no feeling and it clearly shows on his face throughout the film. Soon after, it is revealed that he has a match in an upcoming fencing competition, with an opponent who will not be able to match up. The opponent’s wife privately comes to Ryunosuke in order to beg him to lose the match on purpose, in which he agrees under the condition that she has sex with him. The next morning, before the match the opponent, aware of his wife’s doings, hands her a letter of divorce. At the match, the opponent attacks Ryunosuke in an illegal manner, leading to the opponent’s swift death as Ryunosuke is the much superior swordsman. Ryunosuke then leaves the town with the opponent’s wife and becomes a member of ronin that perfom assassinations against the shogunate’s opposition. After learning that the earlier opponent’s brother is searching for revenge, Ryunosuke claims to accept the challenge, only to run off after slaying his mistress. At a party with his group, Ryunosuke has a conversation with the old man from the beginnings granddaughter, he starts to go insane slashing at everything around him. Soon he is killing men left and right, as the place begins to burn. After being somewhat wounded, but still fighting, Ryunosuke lunges at the screen in one of the most sudden endings to a movie I’ve ever seen.
Therein lies my only real criticism of the Sword of Doom, as the rest of the movie is spectacular. I can’t help but be disappointed at the movie’s ending as there is absolutely no resolution. We don’t see what happens to any of the characters except Ryunosuke who goes completely berserk. What about the brother seeking his revenge? The granddaughter and her caretaker? We can guess that Ryunosuke will die from his injuries, but he’s still going strong in his slaying as the movie ends, so will he die? Questions that won’t be answered, unfortunately.
I really enjoyed the cinematography of this film though. Those close ups were a great way to showcase the emotion, or lack thereof, of characters. Seeing the anguish and shame of Hama as Ryunosuke moves on her, along with other examples, really brought characters to life. Ryunosuke’s mostly blank expression throughout the film also seemed believable as the man had no soul, no feeling. From the instant he showed up, you knew that he had the face of a villain. By far, my favorite scene was after Ryunosuke leaves the match, confronted by more than a dozen men. He walks at a steady pace, with the camera tracking him from above and to the side, and he slays each one effortlessly. This scene was just really well done, along with every other in the film as well.

So far in the course, we have been introduced to several amoral or indifferent samurai, such as the main character in Yojimbo and Kyoshiro in Sleepy Eyes of Death. And we have seen situations where the righteous main character is pitted against a corrupt opponent, such as the good vs. evil theme of Seven Samurai with the hired ronin vs. the thieving bandits, and the Eastern tradition vs. Westernization/corruption as personified by the mortal enemies in Sugata Sanshiro. But Ryonosuke of Sword of Doom has to be the most dastardly, merciless samurai we have seen yet, a bloodthirsty man who we watch go into a downward spiral toward madness from the very beginning.

The movie starts off shockingly in the way that Ryonosuke brutally slays a defenseless, elderly man at a deserted prayer site up in the mountains. The man hardly has a chance to utter a scream before Ryonosuke has slashed him down, demonstrating the true diabolicalness of his character. And the interesting part is that the audience does not see his face until right before he is about to strike. And then after his victim slumps to the ground in a quick death, the audience gets an extreme close-up of Ryonosuke’s cold, unfeeling eyes. This first close-up is to be followed by many more, each time his eyes becoming slightly crazier. The actor plays the part of a madman quite well, to say the least.

As Ryonosuke reaches the peak of his insanity, everything unravels, and he begins to hallucinate, seeing the shadowy specters of his past victims, including his wife Hama and the elderly man he had slain. The scene where he continually slashes at the draping curtains is rather intense, I think, as Ryonosuke’s strikes become more and more erratic and sloppy. I thought the ending was extremely abrupt, and I was disappointed that there was never a face-off between Ryonosuke and Hyoma. However, the battle between Ryonosuke and the numberless other swordsman reminded me a lot of Rikichi the Rat, when his back is up against a wall and guys just keep coming and coming. And somehow, he manages to keep cutting away at them, bringing them down in marathon style. With Rikichi, despite his brave last stand, he faces imminent defeat and capture. With Ryonosuke, on the other hand, the audience does not discover the outcome.

Sword of Doom –
Sword of Doom was an interesting and entertaining story featuring the descent into madness from our anti-hero as his story plays out. It is interesting in that you want to see just how far he will go to satisfy his madness and entertaining in a dark sort of way to see his madness made manifest in his doings. The movie’s opening pretty much sums up our anti-hero’s purpose, and that is to screw over everybody he sees. He cuts a man down in a prayer shrine with no remorse and the use of a close up during this scene emphasizes this. In fact, the close up is used extensively in this film, mostly to highlight Ryunosuke’s dark descent into the abyss of madness.
To emphasize just how inhuman Ryunosuke is, the interaction between his fencing opponent and said opponent’s wife with Ryunosuke can sum it right up. He has the upper hand and he knows it, and his opponent’s wife has come to beg him to throw the fight. He agrees on the condition that she sleep with him which ends with her being divorced by her husband who finds out what happened. After this, he slays his opponent in the match and later slays the wife (who goes with him) out of convenience. Ryunosuke is the picturesque golden boy for “Psycho Evil Samurai Monthly” and he sets out with gusto to keep this sponsorship going strong.
The movie builds and grows stronger as time goes on, leading to what would appear to be the climactic peak….and then is over. Just like that, with a crazed Ryunosuke lunging at the camera, we are left with nothing. No resolution, no information, no closure. Just like that we as viewers are left to our own devices to rationalize what happens next (although this does leave room for a sequel) and I feel this completely detracted from the movie. I was hoping to see the madness consume Ryunosuke and see the epic final duel play out while Ryunosuke is consumed by madness and see whether he lived to rampage on or is finally brought down, but this was just not to be. As far as cliffhanger endings go, however, count me as just barely holding on with my fingertips.

Sword of Doom is a film directed by Kihachi Okamoto and is based on the book “The Pass of the Bodhisattva”. The film follows the life of the ronin Ryunosuke Tsukue. However, he is not your normal outlaw like we have seen in previous movies such as Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, or even Nemuri. His character deconstruction into a deep insanity is what makes this movie interesting. This type of deconstruction is done through character development and cinematography.
The cinematography of the film is a little abrupt and sporadic making Ryunosuke look crazier and gives a feeling of insanity. For example, there are many downward camera angles on Ryunosuke’s face when he is talking. Also there are many close-ups upon his face. Another example is during the fight scene (more specifically the fight scene when Ryunosuke fights his lover’s husband. The camera is focused on the foot movement specifically, and then on Ryunosuke’s blank face. It shows the obscurity of the battle and the intense focus Ryunosuke has on it. Sword fighting is everything to him.
More important than the cinematography is the character development of Ryunosuke. I cannot recall anytime throughout the movie that Ryunosuke has an expression or an emotion on his face. He always looks very blank and his eyes look glazed over for the entire film. Also, his voice is completely monotone throughout the film. The way he acts shows he is uncaring. The words he says also show he is uncaring. He proclaims once in the film that he does not care about any friends or family, and his lover calls him cruel for it. While he is an outlaw ronin, he shows no remorse for which he kills; he is just focused on swordsmanship. This is different than the other outlaws in previous films, which are fighting for one side to help another out.
The film Sword of Doom is all around very dark. There is no humor in it at all; it is a serious deconstruction of the main character. What I find interesting is the progression of the films we have been watching from the beginning of the semester. The silent films started out humorous and light with a lot of kabuki over-acting. But later films we have been watching, like this one, are definitely dealing with more mature themes and deep characters.

Thomas Nosbish

The story follows the life of Ryunosuke Tsukue, an imoral samurai and a master swordsman with an unorthodox style. Ryunosuke is first seen when he kills an elderly Buddhist pilgrim who he finds praying for death. He appears to have no feeling. Later, he kills an opponent in self defence in a fencing competition that was intended to be non-lethal, but became a duel after he coerced his opponent's wife to have sex with him in exchange for throwing the match and allowing her husband to win. His opponent finds out about the affair prior to the match, and is shown giving his wife a notice of divorce. His rage at Ryunosuke during the match causes him to take an illegal lunging attack after the judge proclaims a draw, and Ryunosuke, the better swordsman, parries and kills him with one stroke of his bokken. Ryunosuke flees town after killing the man, and cuts down many of the dead opponent's clansmen who attack him as he is leaving. His opponent's ex-wife asks to go along with him. To make a living, Ryunosuke joins the Shinsengumi, a sort of semi-official police force made up of ronin that supports the Tokugawa shogunate through murder and assassinations.
The plot at first look was simpler than those of most Japanese films that have been received as classics (Seven Samurai, The 47 Ronin, Samurai Rebellion, etc.). Set in the 1860s, it’s the story of Ryunosuke Tsukue, a samurai who is hated for his savagery and disregarded for the law. Ryunosuke is an outcast, surviving as a hired assassin of political figures. He also lives in fear of the revenge set in motion by his late father and the brother of his first samurai victim, as well as the enemy of Toranosuke Shimada (Toshiro Mifune), the only samurai who might best him as a swordsman.

Ryunosuke drove his life to insanity and hell by building bad karma through evil deeds. He had no soul and no remorse for anyone, including women and even children, and did not take blame for anything. Ryunosuke killed Hama and just left the baby for itself, leaving the audience to think it just dies. He did not even care for his own family, saying that when he fought, he had no family. Anyone he could have just a slightest reason to kill, he would. He kills almost 100 people it seems at the end of the movie, a never ending killing spree. He did not care what other people thought of him, he just did what he wanted. Although this did not lead to a happy and joyful life. His life was miserable, living with a woman who wanted to kill him, being on the run all of the time, just living to kill or be killed. All of the murders he committed brought bad karma to him, as towards the end of the movie he is being haunted by the ghosts of all of the people he had killed before. The cinematography was great during this scene, just following him through the sheer walls as he slashes at all of the shadows. A lot of angles and frames were used during that scene.

There was also a lot of close ups throughout the film, used for different purposes. Many shots focusing on peoples faces and emotions, but also many other close ups which show something very specific happening. One example was when Hama pulls the blade out of its handle before she tries to kill Ryunosuke while he was sleeping, the camera zooms in very close to the blade while it was being pulled out. Also during the duel with Bunnojo, there was close ups of the slight movement of the feet. That scene was very tense, and silent, with no diegetic or non-diegetic sound at all until the master calls off the fight. There was also a two second close up of Ryunosuke's upper body as he was chasing the girl. Right after Ryunosuke actually wins the match against Bunnojo, the scene of him walking in the woods was nice too. There was the panning crane shot as he slayed all of the ambushers admist all of the trees. The shot of Ryunosuke and Omatsu in the end, shot through the thin walls was interesting also.

I'll admit, I really did not like the main character of this particular movie. Ryunosuke was portrayed as a very brutal and single minded man from the very beginning. In the very first scene, we see him dispatch an old man merely because he was praying for his death, and he seems to retain very little, if any, guilt for doing this. He even draws his sword on the next guy he passes just because he doesn't recognize him as belonging to that area. I don't really understand why he's so eager to cut people down, but perhaps it's a result of his superior swords skills going to his head.
The woman, Hama, disappointed me. Not only did she agree to debase herself in return for Ryunosuke losing a match, which could be construed as cheating on her husband's part, but when the plan fell apart and she was left with no husband, she did not return to her parents. Instead, she felt the best thing to do was to go with Ryunosuke, even though she knew what kind of man she was. Then, later on when we see her with her son and Ryunosuke, she starts complaining about it. She was a very frustrating character, in my opinion, and I was not nearly as upset as I might have been when she died.
Both of the scenes that stood out to me involved the use of silences and music, or rather a blend of the two to enhance both aspects of a certain scene. The first is just after Yohachi left his little work shed and it was just Ryunosuke and Hama in an incredibly awkward silence. What enhanced the tension between the two, in my opinion, is the fact that despite their silence, the equipment was still running in a stead thump, thump, thump, which highlighted the fact that they were just staring at each other. It was a very effective awkward silence, even though it technically wasn't completely silent.
The other scene that I really liked was very brief, but it definitely stood out to me. It was the very end of the ambush, after Hama warns Ryunosuke; the moment just before he fights the last two men. There wasn't any music in the previous parts of the ambush, at least not that i noticed, but when Ryunosuke slowed down before these two men, there was a slow beat of music that preceded it. It reminded me of what you might here during a Noh play, a more traditional set of instruments. I found myself wishing they'd drawn out that moment just a little longer because the music was a very nice touch to a scene that was very reminiscent of the previous duel between Ryunosuke and Hama's husband.

It seems that as the class progresses along, the films get better and better. Sword of Doom was one that I would happily watch for leisure, despite its grim and violent plot.

The cinematography was impressive, though stood out as obtuse most of the time. In Nemuri Kyoshiro the camera was often seen behind Nemuri's back look on at the person in front of him, but in this film it moves more to the side of the person as we see beyond. Extreme close ups of people's head are constantly being positioned against medium or long shots. The film starts off with an extreme case of this, pitting Ryunosuke's giant kasa against the distant view of the mountain, both in perfect focus, showing off how deep a shot can be pulled off. Another time a character is positioned obstructively close to the camera is when Ryunosuke is talking to [his father], getting the advice that he ought to go easy on Bannojo in the coming match the next day. The camera is positioned very near the ground so as to see both of the characters kneeling on the floor. The old man moves to lie down with his face ending up right next to the camera, filling up a huge portion of the screen as Ryunosuke sits in the background. In this case we are shown a very shallow shot, making the old man to be very clear and everything else a little fuzzy.

The competitive sword fights also caught my attention. In the first one against Bannojo, the symmetry is set up incredibly well and, again, very noticeably. It begins with the two men facing each other, seen from the side, with the judge in the center. Birds can be heard in the background. The anticipation builds as we see their intent facing, going equally from one to the other. Then come the feet as they take turns moving around. So much attention is paid to the most minute of movement that it is extremely laughable when Ryunosuke says the judge must not have noticed him killing Bannojo. In the next fight when he comes to the sword school, it begins with the same symmetry and the camera moves back and forth between the two with equal emphasis on their moves.

Sword of Doom

By far one of the most interesting of the movies we have seen. The film follows Ryunosuke’s life. In contrast with most, if not all, of our previous jidaigekis followed heroes who had some sort of moral code, even if it was questionable. Ryunosuke doesn't seem to have very much of one (there are a few exceptions I guess, like when claims that bushido doesn’t allow him to give in when fighting Hama’s husband. Although, that might have just been more of an excuse he made up for other people.) He begins as the son of a leader of a school of swordsmanship, and upon killing another man in a match (that was not originally meant to be deadly) he eventually becomes an assassin.

This movie had wonderful cinematography. I think one of the best scenes is the rape of Hama (Sounds kind of bad but…). The way the characters didn't move much, but the grinding machine kept up its monotonous pumping. It obviously foreshadowed her rape, and was used to represent it a bit later. The way that whole scene was shot provided this interesting atmosphere for the interaction between the characters. I feel like the grinding machine kind of represents Ryunosuke (not just in a raping sense). He is cold and heartless, and destroys because that is just what he was made for.The sound effects used in the movie were great. I don't remember much about the music but I do love how the director integrated these monotonous noises, which had this kind of industrial/mechanical sound (with a beat like a metronome).

Also, back to the story, I thought it was interesting how the old man was praying that he would die, so his granddaughter would no longer have to be a pilgrim. He then dies, just what he was praying for. It was horrible how he was killed, and there is no doubt that is not what he wanted exactly, but it was interesting how this was sort of wished for by the victim. I haven’t thought enough about this yet.

The Sword of Doom is much like Yojimbo and the Sleepy Eyes of Death in the sense that the main character in all three films is criminal, not a hero. Ryunosuke is not nearly as charming and likeable as Sunjiro, but Natsuya Nakadai is such an engaging actor, and portrays a deranged person so well that it is hard to dislike him.
The opening scene in which Omatsuri and her grandfather are making their pilgrimage up the mountain reminded me of Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Seventh Seal. The use of the bleak but bright landscape along the sea and the figures in the foreground that are nearly silhouetted, but not completely black as well as the strong use of contrasting light on the character’s faces is very reminiscent of Bergman’s style.
Near the end of the film, the scene in which Omatsuri and Ryunosuke are in the haunted room in the tea house together was visually very striking. I particulary like the moment right before the viewer is allowed to see what Ryunosuke and Omatsuri have been seeing and Ryunosuke walks toward the wall and his face passes into complete shadow, then its illuminated again, right after it is lit on just his left side while on the right side of his face there is a pattern of horizontal lines from the shoji screens.
I thought the part where he sees the shadows of all the people he’s killed and hears their last screams was really chilling at first, but then went on for too long at which point it started to feel a bit contrived and over the top. I did however like that movie did not have a distinct ending, as the camera freezes on Ryunosuke in mid swing. That seems fitting since the novel that the film is based on was never completed either.

Ryunosuke is a cold blooded killer and I love him. If we watched only the last twenty minutes of the film, I would be happy. If we only saw his bulging crazy eyes in the foreground of every shot, I would be even happier. And if he were only more realistic, I would be so much happier.

But I can't ask for much realism while a film like The Sword of Doom operates with such psychic intensity. It seems like it is not bound to so much the physical realities as the psychic realities. For instance, Ryunosuke needs only a single slash to kill a person. The single slash is repeated almost mindlessly throughout the movie--one slash, one death, no more person. It leaves the audience sort of flabbergasted at the almost absurd violence, yet it underscores Ryunosuke's psychological issues. Each sword fight for him is not an immense issue fraught with personal meaning. It is empty for him, and this emptiness seems to carry Ryunosuke through the film.

There is a motif throughout the film which places Ryunosuke in the foreground and Hama in the background. While she is silently working or asking him a question, he is silent, but his eyes seem to communicate the madness of the scene to everyone. There is nothing else to go on; his eyes are the lone giveaway. The working assumption here is that Ryunosuke is a monster, devoid of all feeling. His life is horrible, his ways are cruel, and his death toll is almost uncountable (you could count it if you really wanted to).

The last scene however portrays the subconscious of Ryunosuke catching up to him. Appearing as shadows and misplaced sounds, the ghosts of victims past cloud the walls of the castle. He slashes through wall after wall, gaining nothing but a furious rage as the other samurai rush to defeat him. His cruel actions were thought to have no effect on him, but it is seen his subconscious is actively working against him. It is as if his morality were active all along, with his knowledge or consent. With this view, Ryunosuke becomes less of a cold blooded killer than a misguided human being, and our viewing of his actions becomes less entertainment and more contemplation.

Sword of Doom
We are introduced to the film with a touching scene between granddaughter and grandfather travelling looking out onto the scenery. We get a panoramic view of the mountain side and then it switches to some close-ups of the pair. The grandfather is killed by Ryunosuke and we get a close-up of his face, devoid of any feelings of mercy or anger. It portrays to the audience that Ryunosuke is a feared samurai who remains apathetic to all around him.
When Hama visits and Ryunosuke he enters the room the camera is shot at an odd angle and his eyes are the focus. Throughout this scene we are constantly switched from extreme close-up shots of Hama pleading to Ryunosuke to either far-shots or close-up shots of Ryunosuke’s face. It is a stark contrast in the expressions of the two characters: Hama is distraught and fearful while Ryunosuke is intense and apathetic.
The moving shots after Ryunosuke wins the match and when he is ambushed are undoubtedly the most interesting scenes to watch. When he is ambushed down a secluded path we are first shown a series of shots ranging from middle-shots and far-shots all encompassing Ryunosuke and those involved with the ambush. The switching between the ambushers simulates the volley of words between them and Ryunosuke and seem to emphasize the fact that Ryunosuke is surrounded. All the shots are quick to change and finally focus on Ryunosuke just as he strikes his first victim. The moving panel as he walks through the ambush unperturbed by the odds. With the addition of the fog and then an extreme close-up of Ryunosuke’s expression, this scene was really cool.
During Hama and Ryunosuke’s last conversation there was an intense moment where Hama questions Ryunosuke’s purpose to move to Kyoto. She comes to the conclusion that her and her son will be abandoned. But as she is questioning him there was a part where the camera switches between Ryunosuke’s face and Hama’s extreme close-up shot of her face. It seemed to emphasize the tension between the two and heightened the dramatic effect of the scene.
The start of the last scene which is the best part of the film begins when Omatsu and Ryunosuke are together. They begin to hear noises, Ryunosuke suddenly stands up. He begins to walk forward, and mountain winds are heard in the background. His face is barely illuminated and he has an extremely tense face. This was probably the most intense part of the entire film. He then starts to hear the screams and cries of those he’s killed while the camera begins to shake. A slight but effective cinematic effect to illustrate the chaos within the scene. I thought it was ironic that it’s only towards the end when he begins to show sign of madness that we see any kind of emotion on his face.

I’m not sure what to think of Sword of Doom; I was surprised by the complete lack of any sort of redeeming qualities in Ryunosuke. He seemed to lack any kind of emotion and usually sounded very monotone and empty when he spoke to anyone. Ryunosuke’s facial expression is normally blank (except for when he does a really creepy smile, which is usually when someone dies) and it often looks like he’s staring off into the distance or at nothing in particular. Ryunosuke is the complete opposite of what the main character in a jidaigeki film is supposed to be; he doesn’t avoid fighting with others at all costs, instead, he kills for fun. It doesn’t matter who it is, be it an old man on a religious pilgrimage, an opponent, or even his own wife; he does not hesitate to kill any of them. The only time it looked like he had any human emotion was towards the end where the people he killed come back to haunt him and it looked as if he did feel some guilt for it. However, the guilt then drove him insane and he went on a killing rampage, striking down anyone who came near, so I don’t think that really makes up for anything.

There was definitely a dark tone to the film and you can clearly tell that just by the close ups on Ryunosuke’s face. He always has a creepy expression either from his lack of emotion or by his wide-eyed creepy smile and it makes the viewer feel uncomfortable because it is not normal for a human to react to everything in that way. Certain scenes also help to portray the darkness, such as the scene where Ryunosuke goes insane. Everytime he slashes a screen trying to take down a shadow of someone he killed you hear their scream. He slashes at screen after screen and the dying screams of his victims keep ringing out. The scene where Ryunosuke kills Hama also has a very bleak feeling with everything covered in snow outside the house and the area looking so deserted. Watching Hama run desperately through the snow barefoot and Ryunosuke marching toward her determinedly, you know that there is no way she will escape.

The Sword of Doom (1966)
The Sword of Doom is set in Tokugawa period. As all other jidaigeki films, costumes and props are similar to those. It was interesting to see that the film sutured the actual historical incidents in Japan. Personally I was glad to see the Shinsen-gumi ‘happi’ coats.
The story begins with the scene old man murdered by a samurai, Tsukue Ryunosuke acted by Nakadai Tatsuya. The old man’s granddaughter Omatsu is raised by Shichibei, a thief disguised as a peddler that robbed fencing school where Ryunosuke goes as a young master. After the murder, Ryunosuke and Shichibei meets and Ryunosuke attempts to kill him but fails. Two year later, Ryunosuke works as a murderer. He has wife Ohama who was actually a wife of Utsugi who were killed by Ryunosuke. Later in the film, he joins Shinsen-gumi and asked to kill one of the leaders in its group. However, he sees the ghosts in the quiet room and becomes furious.
Aesthetically, the sword fighting scenes in general were very exciting. I think it had the best sword fighting scenes among the films we have seen in the class so far. Ryunosuke’s manipulation of sword looked very professional and invincible; his action had rhythm and camera works established it very well, it was awesome.
Ryunosuke was a very mysterious character; he never showed or expressed his emotions and never revealed his history. We only know that he was talented in sword and that he enjoyed killing people. I think this was good because it made character more interesting and attractive although he was scary and not a hero. No expression functioned as a mask and killing political person were the elements similar to the heroes in other superheroes except that he does not have justice.
The introduction of the film was themed and cohesive. The font used for title and the music matched to the overall atmosphere. The music reminded me a Godzilla theme song. His strength and unknown history might be similar to Godzilla.
The end of the film seemed that Ryunosuke will be killed; film did not show the conscience of him. He became furious by seeing ghosts and attacked by Shinsen-gumi. He was spotted by lights and it emphasized his rampage.

Sword of Doom

Kihachi Okamoto's 1966 film, The Sword of Doom, was an incredibly dark look into the life of an amoral samurai, Ryunosuke. He was, by far, the darkest anti hero that we have seen all semester. In fact, the way this film is structured around him, it is hard to say whether or not there is a protagonist.

We see Ryunosuke engage in heartless killing (such as the old man and Bunnojo) and also rape, with Hama. He tells her he will throw the duel in exchange for her chastity, but that is a lie. Considering the whole film, the most impressive scene is the last one. Ryunosuke goes absolutely mad. The camera techniques of this particular scene were very interesting. They used lighting behind the thin walls to simulate shadows that were not actually there, thereby simulating Ryunosuke's hallucinations. It was a claustrophobic scene which made the viewer feel the tension that was in the room. It was a very interesting choice to end the film on a freeze frame. At first I didn't really like it, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. Ryunosuke was purposely denied resolution. The only way, at that point in the film, that Ryunosuke would be able to get over what he had committed was through death, and Okamoto essentially denied him, and the viewers, the satisfaction of seeing him die. It was very powerful. This was probably one of my favorite movies that we saw this semester.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Anderson published on April 28, 2010 1:40 PM.

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