Brow Beat

How Akira Kurosawa Mastered the Art of Movement in Movies

Kurosawa understood motion’s innate power more than most any director.

Still from Vimeo

Back in January, Tony Zhou shared a sharp little video essay on Akira Kurosawa’s geometric style, a video that was technically culled from a much larger, more expansive piece on the director that Zhou was still fine-tuning. That piece is now finished, and it’s a bracing analysis that applies Zhou’s insight to Kurosawa’s use of movement in general.

What kind of movement, exactly? Zhou argues that Kurosawa uses four types—movement of nature, movement of groups of people, movement of individuals, and movement of the camera itself—to enhance a scene, whether through establishing a narrative rhythm or highlighting a character’s personality. He supplies plenty of evidence to support those claims, including a fun compare-and-contrast with an Avengers scene, and by the video’s end it’s clear that few directors have matched Kurosawa’s respect for the inherent power of motion on screen.