Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars
In terms of mise-en-scene, Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars have unique aspects that further enhance each film. Particularly, they both put great significance onto certain props used by the characters. In the beginning of each film, the protagonist of Yojimbo uses a toothpick while the protagonist of A Fistful of Dollars uses a cigar. Essentially, both props carry the same meaning in which they represent each character’s calm demeanor and confidence in the face of danger and chaos.
Both films also gave deep significance and theme to weapons. In Yojimbo, the theme resided in blade versus pistol and in a Fistful of Dollars, it resided over pistol versus rifle. In either case, the antagonist carried the more powerful weapon while the protagonist carried the considerably weaker one. Similar to the cigar and toothpick, both movies gave the same motif; although the antagonist’s weapon was more powerful, it was the hero’s skill that prevailed in the end as the true strength. In terms of the audience, these props gave the effect that the hero was at a disadvantage and therefore added more suspense to the scenes, especially the western showdowns that each director conveyed.
An interesting observation I made was the effects that using a natural setting entailed. In both films, the wind is a noticeable factor due to the fact that most of the action takes place outside. Whether it was the leaves dancing in the wind (Yojimbo) or the sand creating a blurry storm (Fistful of Dollars), it gave the scenes depth and even a sense of mystery such as in the case of Clint Eastwood’s character appearing from the sand storm in one shot.
Focusing solely on Yojimbo, another observation I made was that as the plot heightened, the set became more chaotic. By the showdown, the town of Yojimbo was in ruins due to the conflict between the gangs. A great technique by Kurosawa, it unified the setting with the story of the film. The most interesting shot in either film for me, however, was a shot in Yojimbo immediately after the gangs’ first encounter. In the shot, we see the two mob bosses face to face and Sanjuro is between them high above standing on a ladder. I found this to be one of the most powerful shots in the whole movie, especially in regards to mise-en-scene, because it showed Sanjuro’s power and manipulation over the two mod bosses at that moment. He was the one that manipulated them into fighting (or at least attempting to fight) in the first place. In this particular shot, I viewed Sanjuro as the puppeteer and the bosses as his puppets. Ultimately, through admiration for mise-en-scene, both directors were able to make visually brilliant movie experiences.