The Last Samurai (2003) - directed by Edward Zwick
staring Tom Cruise
The film opens with a fade in on Japanese landscape. We can tell that the landscape is Japan because the music in the background is a classic oriental wind instrument which is a non-diegetic bridging sound, the reader can then make the link between the music and the landscape just as the narration starts, which is also non-diegetic, and confirms that the place is Japan as the narration is describing how japan was formed. The establishing shots of Japan start off as primarily blue toned and in the few changes of scenery the colour slowly changes to a coral/ red tone, both these colours are very peaceful and along with the wind instruments they lull the audience into a sense of calm.
In the second scene the camera tracks up to a man who appears to be sitting down on a hill. The camera keeps coming up and we see over the mans shoulders that there are people working the land, it is also clear to the audience that the man is wearing oriental robes and the two things together make it apparent that this movie may not be set in our time. When we get to see the man's face it is from a long shot and we can see that his eyes are closed, his legs are crossed and his hands are clasped together, this position connotes meditation. Just by the man's clasped hands we can see a sword sticking out of the man's robes, people with a more in depth knowledge of Japans history would know instantly that this is important as only people of nobility carry swords in Japan. from this we can tell that the man has will most likely have a fair bit of land and is probably a warrior.
Here there is a fade from one scene to another, which is blurry and blue toned creating a dream-like feel and letting the audience know that it isn't real. From this we are able to make an educated guess and say that this dream like Forrest is only in the meditating man's mind. The scene then changes back to that of the meditating man, only the shot is a close up of his eyes which only confirms are belief that this is all in the mans head and not entirely real. As in the previous shot of the dream like woods there is a tiger fighting samurai who are circling around him, however the tiger is not just any ordinary tiger, the tiger is an incredibly rare white tiger which could be used as a metaphor for Tom Cruise's character. Like him the tiger is white and different to the samurai in the way it thinks and fights, however it doesn't stop fighting even when all hope is lost and it is surrounded, it is wild at heart and a unique creature, like Tom Cruise's character who is rare in the fact that, even though he was brought over to fight the samurai and create a new army for japan, he opens his mind to the way of the samurai, a task which not every normal man can do, for his character learns what would take most men years in a matter of months. Over and over again in the same scene we see this flag waving with the same white tiger on it, this will become more important as the movie goes on because we learn it is the same flag that Tom Cruise's character uses in battle and it later solidifies the idea of the white tiger in this 'vision' is him. There is then a close up of the tigers eyes, a close up which is mirrored later on in the movie when tom cruise is fighting the samurai. There is a parallel bridging sound which occurs as the movie switches back to the meditating man who finally opens
his eyes as the scene fades out.
The scene then fades into the title which is in English is red, which connotes war and pain but also love. There is ghostly Japanese writing underneath to show the bridge between the two languages and cultures that is a constant theme in this movie. The writing then fades out.
There is a fade in to the next scene which is a close up of a wooden beam. The camera gradually zooms and pans towards a man, which we can see is Tom Cruise, who is drinking from a flask. This is an old film trick which connotes alcoholism in the character who is drinking, because they can't go anywhere without a drink. The room the main character is in is dark and gloomy. There is an American flag in the background and we can hear diegetic sounds of a man talking about a true "American hero" who we realise is the main character, however the fact that he is drinking leads us to believe that maybe he is not a hero or that he has seen some bad things in the war. The scene then changes to a colourful crowded room where we are told that it is 1876 in San Fransisco. The bright bold colours and amount of people in this room are a direct contrast to the room where Tom Cruise's character is hiding, this could also be considered a metaphor between what war is really like and how the people who have not fought a war perceive it to be, all glory and killing the bad guys, not painful and dangerous.