This review made me remember how director Eiichi Kudo suggests us ideas via his camera/editing. The kind of things so obvious we don’t really see them!!
Let’s take this example:
First, you should know The Thirteen Assassins is about a group of killers hired by the Official Government to kill the Shogun’s brother. And we’re going to see a part of the discussion when the Minister gives the order to do that mission.
On the first screen, you can see that characters are at the background. But remember, there’s an official minister (Tetsuro Tamba) and a samurai (Chiezo Kataoka). They don’t belong to the same cast, but Kudo has put them at the same level. That’s strange. Because usually, the Minister sits on a higher step… which you can see at the foreground. Basically, we know that’s an unofficial business here.
Then, the shot reverse shot is pretty interesting. At that moment, the samurai has just suggested a gentle way to solve the problem. But it’s not what the Minister wants, that’s why the shot reverse shot breaks the idea of them being at the same level. The Minister regains his power over the samurai.
And here’s the magical part, Eiichi Kudo breaks the 180 degree rule. More than ever, the characters ARE at the same level, face to face. What does it mean?
• The samurai understands how to solve the problem (maybe why we can see the zen garden at the background, the doors are open)
• It’ll be a suicide mission.
Breaking the 180 degree rule is a way to emphasis the fact that the samurai knows he’s going to be killed for an unofficial mission. It reveals also the subtlety of the discussion, the Minister never says “Go kill yourself“, he only suggests that idea!!!
And when the samurai accepts, the minister claps in his hands like the problem has already been solved. He has just sent a man to death and, he doesn’t really care.
Eiichi Kudo is showing how the feudal system used values (honor, respect, loyalty) as tools to solve (unofficial) political issues. Remember, the title is “13 Assassins“, but then ask yourself, how assassins can work for the official governement? Isn’t that hypocrisy?
(And we’ll see how Takashi Miike is going to handle the remake!)