The Hidden Fortress (Japan, 1958)

4/3/11

Another Akira Kurosawa epic classic! This one takes some time to simmer and get going but well worth the wait.  

'The Hidden Fortress' is a film of a young gutsy Princess and her escape from an evil dark empire. The Princess is assisted by two fearful servants and a samurai that helps guide her along the way to re-establish her empire in a new homeland.  Oh wait…that’s the plot of ‘Star Wars.’  Sound familiar?  Actually, George Lucas references 'The Hidden Fortress’ often as a partial inspiration for his 1977 classic. 

In the way that ‘The Hidden Fortress’ is ultimately told from the perspective of the lowest characters in the film, the 2 peasants (aka the droids in ‘Star Wars’) heroically assist a Samurai General (Luke Skywalker) and a secret Princess (Princess Leia) cross enemy lines. 

Watching ‘Hidden Fortress’ you can definitely sense this story telling perspective as well as the characters relationship and similarities in persona and dialogue to C3PO and R2D2, not to mention the influence of Kurosawa on Lucas’ screen techniques using ‘frame wipes’ for transitions.

George Lucas discusses the influence of Akira Kurosawa in his works

 
 
It’s safe to say that The Hidden Fortress is one of the lightest and perhaps the most mainstream Kurosawa films made. So to those who have found other Kurosawa movies to be too profound or serious, you’ll definitely be fond of this. 
 
By the end of the film, this movie imparts a great lesson about personal pride, honor, respect and staying true to one’s inner calling.
 
Synopsis
 
The Hidden Fortress (in Japanese: Kakushi toride no san akuni) is a tale about two bumbling, greedy slaves in 16th-century feudal Japan, Tahei and Matashichi, who escape from an unsuccessful battle between nearby clans.
 
They decide to set up camp for the night, but they also soon discover a gold bar located near their campsite. They then begin fighting over the piece of fortune, but before they can settle their argument, they stumble upon Rokurota Makabe (Toshirô Mifune), a formidable military general; and Yuki Akizuki (Misa Uehara), a ferocious princess. 
 
General Macabe needs to bring a wagon teeming with the Princess’ gold and Princess Akizuki across enemy territories so they can re-establish their empire. To succeed with this plan, he deceives the selfish peasants into helping them, with a promise of rewarding them a considerable amount of gold shares when they reach the destination.
 
With high hopes of possessing some of the gold bars, Tahei and Matashichi join the warrior and the princess through perilous mountain passes.