Japan. I know what the theme of this movie is, because the director was there and just came out and told us. Its about loyalty. I love the premise of the movie. A Samurai is disgraced and to earn back his honor must find and kill the men who disgraced him. The search lasts 13 years, which happens to span the transition from the Edo period to the Mejii restoration. Like the opening of the American West, this is a period that is focused upon all out of proportion to how long it actually lasted. We think of Samurai as icons, as do the Japanese, even though one of the projects of the Mejii Restoration was to demean and eliminate all aspects of Samurai culture, the better to modernize Japan.
By the way, also like the opening of our West, the samurai were less inspiring than the stories we have about them. Samurai were basically high class thugs. They were retained by warlords to maintain feudal order and fight pointless wars with other warlords. They had a terrific ethic and culture, but what in the end they were for was ignoble. The Mejii were right to suppress them
This is not a typical Samurai movie. Very little fighting. Slow paced. Its not really clear to me what our hero was doing all those years. I was hoping for a film noir version of a Samurai movie, but was disappointed. Many long takes of people experiencing strong emotions in that restrained, Japanese manner. I love gruff, explosive way people, especially men, talk in Japanese movies. A bit character in one scene, who has maybe 10 words of dialog, looks and acts exactly like John Belushi in his revered Samurai Delicatessen sketch. Alas, this was my favorite scene in the movie. We would have left early but the director was there and, ans we discussed it afterwards, we independently decided we did not want him to lose face. I was unaware, but he was sitting right next to me, Marion says.