Yojimbo + A Fistful of Dollars

I found there to be an uncanny amount of similarities between Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. I really didn’t expect to see so much resemblance between a Japanese film and a western film. Although they were filmed in the same time period, the location and assumed cultural differences between the movies led me to believe they would be completely different. Having similar plots is one thing, but there were so many details that matched up very well.

Some examples of similar mise-en-scene included setting, characters, lighting, and music. In Yojimbo, there was a coffin maker who was “the only one making money” in the town (which in itself was just depressing and somehow ironic). There was also a crazy man running around banging on a prayer drum in a somewhat annoying and very repetitive fashion when everyone was lying dead on the ground. A Fistful of Dollars had a lot of these similar elements, from the snippets that we saw in class. There was a coffin maker and a crazy guy ringing a bell when everyone lying dead and the sounds he created were also very impactful and repetitive.

The settings were also surprisingly similar: they both were rundown and seemingly abandoned towns with one dirt road going down the middle. As soon as I saw the western scene I immediately began to notice similarities. The plots of the two films were obviously very much the same overall and ended almost exactly the same way: the skilled shooter/warrior came in and had to pick a side to help fight to win power of the town, betrayed someone along the way, and ended up winning with cunning moves and skills.

Even though there are plenty of films out there with similar plots, I found it very intriguing that the little ghost towns were lit the same way at night, had the same quirks, and extremely similar stories going on. I guess that shows that even if it’s in western America or Japan, mise-en-scene can still be very much the same.

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2 thoughts on “Yojimbo + A Fistful of Dollars

  1. It is so true! Who would have thought that a Japanese film (Yojimbo) and a Western film (A Fistful of Dollars) could ever line up so closely? Even though the two films were made in the same time period, I felt as if A Fistful of Dollars was a more advanced film. It really is quite remarkable that not only do they posses similar plots, but everything from the setting to lighting matches up. Both the films do have a coffin maker and a man announcing the deaths of townspeople as if it is a positive thing. When the protagonists were being hunted after, they both resorted to crawling on the dirt path wedging themselves under houses and seeking refuge with those they were close to. As expected, the protagonists prevail and prove a point while doing so. Respectfully gaining the power of the small town, while teaching a lesson to the fugitives. Overall I would say this leads me to believe that regardless of the origin, films with similar plots will yield comparable use of mise-en-scene.

  2. It is so surprising seeing how similar what seemed like 2 completely different films could be. And I believe it is due to mise-en-scene that they achieved such a likeness. Besides the setting and costumes, the rest of the scene in either set it up to be alike. For instance, lighting and makeup in both gave similar feelings in shared scenes (which is basically the entirety of the two films). Although the methods of characters were different, as in the escape scenes, the lighting played off the tension felt and the makeup of the two both accentuated how weak and vulnerable at that point. Character types and look are extremely similar between the two as well: mysterious, brooding protagonists, eccentric but key older characters, sinister protagonist, damsel in distress, desperate child. All there.

    On second thought, even costumes can be seen as similar. The protagonists both had a rather enigmatic but gritty feel to each. The damsel in distress was dressed to look as a more innocent victim caught in the mess.

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