The Twilight Samurai

Directed by Yoji Yamada, at FACT till May 20th

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The Twilight Samurai is a slow thoughtful Japanese film, directed by Yoji Yamada, and unlike two recent releases regarding the life of a Samurai warrior, 'Zatoicha' and 'The Last Samurai', contains very little sword play, or little other action in general.

Instead it focuses upon the simple story of a man, Seibei (Hiroyoki Sanada). struggling to bring up his family in a rural village. He subsists on a low income, with which he has to support his sick wife (who later dies), two young children, one of whom, when she is an adult, is the narrator in the film, and a senile mother.

Although trained as a samurai when he was younger, he has not been involved in fighting for many years.
But he is forced back into combat when he is challenged to a duel by the violent and jealous ex-husband of Tomoe, who strongly disapproves of the strong friendship she has with Seibei.

Instead of using a sword in the duel Seibei uses a wooden stick, but still wins the fight when he knocks unconscious his opponent with a blow to the head.

His fighting skills are brought to the attention of his clan leaders, who threaten Seibie with exile and certain destitution, if he refuses their command to kill an enemy of the clan.
He reluctantly accepts, and after slaying the man, in a superbly photographed action scene, containing, thankfully, no computer graphics, he returns to his village , where he is greeted by Tomoe, who breaks down crying with joy at his safe return.
The film then skips forward 25 years, and shows Tomoe, who had married Seibei, paying homage to him at his tomb.

Although meditative and often low-key, The Twilight Samurai is warm on the eye, and is full of meaningful and philosophical dialogue. Yomade deserves credit for making such a film.