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The Last Samurai. The old world collides with modernity.

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The Last Samurai.  The old world collides with modernity.

The Last Samurai is a 2003 film directed by Edward Zwick con Tom Cruise in the role of Nathan Algrena former U.S. Army Captain , and by Ken Watanabe, in the role of the warrior Katsumoto.

In 1876 Nathan, a former US Army captain and veteran of the Seventh Cavalry who works advertising rifles Winchesteris sent to Japan to train the Japanese emperor’s army Meiji in order to eliminate the samurai rebels led by Katsumoto. Although he points out that the Japanese troops are completely unprepared, their generals immediately send them to war. The soldiers soon become victims of the samurai rebels who take Nathan hostage, and it is precisely on this occasion that the man realizes the value and loyalty of the samurai, prompting him to reevaluate his own mission.

Over time, Algren learns about the philosophy, lifestyle and ancient culture of the samurai, discovering that the rebels fight to defend traditions, values ​​and codes from the progress that threatens their existence, without any desire for rebellion; his mentor is Katsumoto himself who does not despise Western culture at all, indeed he proves to be very intrigued by it, even though he does not approve of it. The captain then decides to side with them and progressively begins to be treated as an equal by the samurai he had previously fought.

The film is inspired in fictional form by two historical events that actually happened in Japan: the Guerra Boshin and the Satsuma Rebellion.

Katsumoto is a character that refers to the Japanese military Saigo Takamori, samurai of the Satsuma fiefdom who died in the battle of Shiroyama. Takamori led the samurai, like Katsumoto in the film, trying to be faithful and to defend until the last moment the traditions and values ​​of a world, the samurai world, which was in danger of disappearing, becoming one of Japan’s great national heroes. The Satsuma rebellion lasted a few months: the regular imperial army, composed of 300,000 men, stopped that of the rebels, which numbered just 40,000. The conflict ended with the Battaglia di Shiroyamathe same represented in the ending of The Last Samurai.

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Depiction of the Battle of Shiroyama, during the Satsuma Rebellion

Furthermore, in the film, the foreigners present in Japan, in the period in which the events are set, are mostly of nationality Americanwhen instead, in reality, the major foreign powers present or represented at the time were i Netherlands, Italia, France e Great Britain; the figure of Nathan Algren is inspired by Jules Brunet, a captain and artillery instructor under the orders of Napoleon III, sent to Japan to teach innovative military tactics; once he arrives in the country of the Rising Sun, he takes up the rebel cause, after being embroiled in the Boshin War.

In addition to the narration, the settings have also been reconstructed: the village of Katsumoto, where Algren is treated, was created in the Uruti Valley in New Zealand, the place where the most spectacular battles were filmed. However, the best shots were taken on Mount Shosha at the Himej Shoshazan Engyo-ji Temple , which is located about an hour from Osaka , in the city of Himeij.

Also in this film, as in many Hollywood films, the stereotype of the Western hero is highlighted who must intervene to help other populations to resolve a situation as they are unable to do it alone. Ken Watanabe intervened in this regard, denying this statement and emphasizing that in reality American cinema is given the possibility of representing Japan in a way that had never been done before. Despite the controversies that follow each colossal, the success it has achieved all over the world, including Japan, is indisputable and thanks to the photography, music and costumes, as well as the preparation and masterful interpretation of the protagonists, it has been nominated to four Academy Awards per Best Supporting Actor, Best Production Design, Best Costumes e Best Soundit’s at three Golden Globes per Best Movie dramatic, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama e Best Supporting Actor.

By Valeria Turino

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