Yojimbo is considered a landmark film in the history of film-making because it has managed to bridge the Japanese culture (which has always been considered rather mysterious and very “oriental”) with other cultures, especially the Western ones. More than a tale of an unlikely hero, it is a film that symbolizes the universal theme of going against all odds.
We, the audience, are presented with a character – a samurai – who has been made ronin, or without master. A Japanese samurai of this unfortunate predicament is considered automatically dishonored. Far from taking his own life, as tradition demands, he lets his life continue by adapting to the situation. He had nowhere to go, and he let fate decide his destination for him, by throwing a branch and following the path it led to. He was alone and without friends, but somehow, he made it through.
He had to take the unpleasant job of being a bodyguard for one of the two main rival gangs in the town he arrived in, and he frequently changed allegiances, which is something very un-samurai like. His sense of loyalty for a time depended on who could offer him more gold, perhaps a testament to the innate greed (or perhaps, need) of man. Whatever his reason may be, he did what he had to do, and survived more or less on his skill and wit, even as the two factions seek to control him for their own purposes.
After he was captured trying to help a couple (by freeing the woman from a gang leader’s grasp), he basically had his life beaten within an inch of death. He could have given up there and then, and decided to accept his fate and perhaps worked to the best of his abilities for one of the gang leaders, but he did not. He decided to put a stop to the mess that the town has turned to, and even with nothing to gain, he still decided to do it anyway, probably a testament to his ‘heroic’ nature. Whatever his reason, he moved from an indecisive, purposeless man, to a man transformed, a much better person, with a drive to succeed at what he puts his mind to. This is a theme easily recognized by any culture because it is a basic human want: to succeed despite insurmountable odds.
I believe that this was a landmark film because the ‘fight against all odds’ theme is understood well in every and any culture. The tale of a man with seemingly no future, and yet managed to somehow make the cards life throws at him work is nothing short of the dream that every one of us aspire to have the ability to do: no matter how bleak life appears, somehow, it will all work for our benefit eventually.
For reference purposes only. DLSU takes harsh actions against plagiarism. :) 20090325 Copyright Jason Cruz.