The Film, The Last Samurai, starts off like any film. We are presented with problems in the world. Better yet, we are presented with a cosmic problem and a microscopic problem. The cosmic, or larger, problem is that there are internal struggles that are taking place both in the US and in Japan. In the US, westward expansion meant removing the Native Americans from the lands they had loved and protected for centuries. In Japan, the wholeness of a culture was being torn apart by a rebellion. The micro dilemma lies in an American Soldier sick with guilt and condemnation and dying an angry alcoholic.
An opportunity comes around for our Soldier, Nathan Algren, when his former Colonel contracts him to train the Japanese military using Western Strategy. You see, a rebellion has risen against Westernization in Japan. The traditional Samaurai have opposed the changes to culture and are ready to die for it. The Japan Army has rifles while the Samurai still use bow and arrow. For Algren, the task seemed like eaten cake. Only the army consisted of farmers and laborers while the Samurai were life-long trained warriors. This became more than reality on Algren’s first encounter with the Samurai. The army fell apart with the first wave and Algren was captured by the rebellion.
Algren spends several months in captivity but is allowed to participate and learn of Samurai culture and customs. His relationship with the rebellion leader, Katsumoto, becomes that of student and mentor. Algren is transformed from the inside out.
Algrens internal struggles stem from his shame. The shame he sees in the mirror of who he used to be in the military. Things he had to do and things he had to see. We can relate to this even in the alternate. Maybe there is a disappointment that we feel of things we weren’t able to do and things we may not ever have the chance to see.
What resonates most is the drastic change of scenery that Algren needed to find the cure. We can see our surrounding and we know that this is life. It’s a repetition of places and faces; of stresses and turmoils. Can a change in that scenery bring perspective? For Algren, that change came physically. After all he was kidnapped by a Rebel force in Japan. But for all of us, we must not forget that our number one landscape is our mind. Our perspective and our take on the world we live in. A change in landscape doesn’t always happen because we are clingy as humans. But what if it did?
Algren found a healthy body and a sound mind when he was snatched from his reality. The new place gave him new principles and allowed him to find peace and forgiveness.
As you watch the film, the slow but steady glimmer of light for Algren keeps you wanting more. You are hopeful for him, even if when you were disgusted by him at the beginning. This hope is one you fall in love with because you want it for yourself. You wish it on Algren because you hope someone wishes it for you. This is not to say that everyone’s life is miserable and everyone is an alcoholic. No, not by a long shot. But the sure thing is that everyone is longing for improvement. A change is needed in every circumstance to achieve that.