by Cara I.
The story is based on historical events 300 years ago, centering on feudal lord Asano of Ako in central Japan. He was in the capital city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in 1701 when he drew his sword and injured a senior official, Lord Kira, who was purported to have insulted him. For this act, Lord Asano was ordered to commit ritual suicide; his land and holdings were taken away from his clan.
A group of loyal vassals, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, secretly planned to avenge their lord's death and restore the clan's honor - it took two years of preparation, but on a wintry night in 1703, they broke into Kira's home and killed him. After succeeding in their revenge, the vassals committed ritual suicide.
The story of these events has been told in many media, including kabuki plays, ballet, TV shows, graphic novels, and feature films. The 1962 film we saw last week may be the most visually beautiful and artistic of the eight films based on it (beginning with the 1907 film of a Kabuki play and including the 2012 fantasy starring Keanu Reeves).
Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, its 207-minute length, including a built-in intermission, allows audiences to view exquisitely filmed scenes of "gorgeous art works, buildings, and costumes of 18th century Japan" as an all-star cast including Toshiro Mifune present this "richly woven" story, according to Mike O'Brien in the Wikipedia entry on the film. Impressive scenes of Edo-era gardens give glimpses of what may have inspired the design of our own Seattle Japanese Garden.
Following the showing, the docents shared our reactions to the film, and to the deeply personal conflict of obligations, loyalty, depicted in it. Although the story took place in 18th century Japan, that universal conflict is engaging to people everywhere, certainly to the group gathered last week!
The full name of the Inagaki-directed 1962 film is Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki, and a 6-minute trailer of it can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXY-GfAtJ8o