Through mise-en-scene, Yojimbo utilizes different techniques and aspects that enhance the film’s plot and characters.
Despite the feudal Japan style of clothing and costumes, Yojimbo is very much a Japanese presentation of western films, which is easily seen through from the beginning shots: A lone samurai(gunslinger) walking into a town that’s a brewing with trouble. In fact several scenes exemplify this. Before the onset of trouble and conflict, a very visible wind that throws up dust is reminiscent of the western tumbleweed that almost always is present in conflict. Also, the silent standoff between foes is another aspect that is seen in the battles in the film.
Lighting in film accentuates the mood. As seen in Sanjuro’s escape sequence, the lighting is very dim and sidelights are used to emphasize his mangled face and worn clothing. Low key lights can be seen in how the shadows highly contrast with the characters in order to portray the feel of tension and suspense, especially in Sanjuro’s case. The scene in the beginning where Sanjuro first meets and converses with the barkeeper in the tavern used lighting extensively and skillfully. Here lighting is rather dim to give a dreary and dreadful first feeling of the town, even more so when the camera pans to the weary looking villagers and their confines. Lighting is also in the form of backlights that feature Sanjuro’s and the Barkeeper’s silhouettes with the key light source the light that peers in from the cracks between boards. In fact, lighting is used in general through the entirety of the film to play off the dreadful crooked nature of the town.
Makeup also plays of the dreadful nature, as the common villagers would often have dark bags under their eyes in order to emphasize their pitiful situation, whereas the gang members had a more clean look to show their power and status that would get sullied only when major conflict arose.
The setting clearly showed the dreary nature and heightening of conflict through its desolate and empty look that only got worse and decorated by debris and the dead later in the film.