Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
This is perhaps one of my most favourite movies of all time! Somehow, I feel like Ghost Dog in life. But not all things can be the same. Ghost Dog is spectacularly directed, sequenced, edited, and choreographed to portray an indulgence of intellect, cunning, and experience. Ghost Dog is more a meditation than anything else, a kind of reflection that is well worth the watch.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch, Ghost Dog revisits ancient Japanese traditions of sacred ritual practises and formalities that, referenced in the daily life, are displaced. Despite this displacement, Ghost Dog hopes to bring previous generations of ancient customs to the present day in order to establish order, a sequence and a logic to both behavior, enrich loyalty, and give a new meaning to sacrifice.
This is the essential capturing statement quoted from the Hagakure, a philosophical handbook on life, death, and sacrifice:
The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditations on the inevitability of death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate about being ripped apart by arrows, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a roaring fire, being struck by lightning or a great earthquake, falling from thousand foot cliffs, committing seppuku [ritual suicide] at the death of one's master. And every day without fail one should consider himself dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.
The movie itself portrays the dichotomous relations of the Hagakure. Whilst Ghost Dog is confronted with the meditation of life, preserving and protecting the innocence (i.e. the woman he had not killed), we find that he seeks to reinforce a justice solely written in the code of the samurai.
The Hagakure is basically an instructional guide, a book expressed in idioms and expressions whose sole purpose is to bring the samurai towards enlightenment: that their existence is found only in death. At the heart of this philosophy lies the dichotomous relations with life, the inevitability of all things and the end of life--the goal towards peace is only found at the last moment, "the end is important in all things".
In a moment of desperation Ghost Dog was saved and ever since then he's made his savior his master. Why? Because Ghost Dog came to realize that the dual nature of all things exists, that his fear of death resulted in his vulnerability. Ever since his philosophical enlightenment, Ghost Dog treads with certainty the inevitability of his life and his eventual death.
Very interestingly, and quite typical, the mafia members are quite often watching cartoons. In almost every sequence we see the mob, we see them watching cartoons. Either the mafia senses a relationship between themselves and the cartoons, or that the director relates their simple life with that of the cartoons--evidently, however, the cartoons are always very violent.
In sequences with Ghost Dog, however, he is either in a spiritual meditation, walking down the street, discussing philosophical books with a young girl and his French colleague. Despite his philosophical fixation, Ghost Dog is held hostage to the times he's in. People have a constant disrespect for nature, for culture, for one another and Ghost Dog sets his path clear: he has to maintain some order through the code of the samurai.