Shinobu Hashimoto, 1918–2018
The screenwriter who helped put Japan on the cinematic map
Shinobu Hashimoto was one of the most influential screenwriters in film history, bringing international attention to Japanese cinema through his long collaboration with director Akira Kurosawa. Hashimoto’s script for 1954’s Seven Samurai, in which a group of unemployed warriors are hired to protect a village from bandits, set the template for countless action movies. George Lucas credited 1958’s The Hidden Fortress with providing inspiration for Star Wars. And Hashimoto’s first film, 1950’s Rashomon, changed the language of cinema forever. It tells the story of a murder and a rape from four different perspectives—of a bandit, a passing woodcutter, and the dead samurai and his wife—all equally plausible. The phenomenon in which different people recall the same event in contradictory ways is now known as the “Rashomon effect.”
Born in west central Japan, Hashimoto joined the army as a young man in 1938, “but contracted tuberculosis during his training,” said The New York Times. He spent four years in a veterans’ sanitarium, where a fellow patient lent him a film magazine. Hashimoto “became fascinated by the craft of screenwriting.” While working as an accountant at a munitions firm, he sent a draft screenplay to Mansaku Itami, one of the country’s most famous screenwriters, who ultimately became Hashimoto’s mentor.
“Hashimoto wrote more than 70 screenplays,” said The Washington Post, including classics such as 1952’s Ikiru and 1957’s Throne of Blood. He continued to work into his 90s, until a stroke largely ended his career. “It is like being a farmer who plants seeds and constantly cares about the weather and water or worries if there are insects,” Hashimoto said of screenwriting. “It is work that requires persistent patience.”