The Samurai That Night is an excellent film. I must say however, for the benefit of those expecting swords and kimonos, that it is not a film about an actual samurai, so do not expect to be entertained with fast motion takes, rapid editing or jaw dropping CGI. The film, which has already won a Golden Zenith at the Montreal World Film Festival, does deal with a common belief present in samurai films, the idea that the murder of innocent women or children should be avenged and our main protagonist, awkward Kenichi Nakamura- portrayed by Masato Sakai, must deal with this grave dilemma.
We join Kenichi, or Ken as is preferred by his wife, two days before the five-year anniversary of her death. She (Maki Sakai) was killed in a hit and run by Kijima (Takayuki Yamada) who has recently been freed from prison after being convicted for her death. Both men are still coming to terms with the event. Ken is mild-mannered, whilst keeping up with the running of his small ironworks business, he remains reclusive, not speaking much until the film’s climatic scenes at the end. By contrast Kijima is aggro and in initial conflict with all he interacts with.
I enjoyed the film’s mundane realism which firmly places the plot into a modern urban context and allows the audience to relate to the Japanese characters. The film also depicts the formalities and reserved nuances of Japanese culture, most of the characters, apart from roguish Kijima, are apologetic and overly polite by British standards.
I was only disappointed by a couple of lines worth of dialogue between Ken and Kijima, where Ken suggests that they talk about television, I felt this to be cheesy and belittling of the journey the characters had made toward their final confrontation. Other than this I found The Samurai That Night to be a very good choice and definitely worth watching particularly on a rainy autumn afternoon. I am very pleased at its selection for the BFI’s London Film Festival.