Rebellion has a lot in common with the earlier Kobayashi masterpiece Harakiri (Seppuku). Both are among of the greatest samurai films and both are epic, not in a traditional sense of huge battles, but in moral and serious thoughtprovoking aspects.
The story of this film is seemingly simple. Elder son of Sasahara household reluctantly marries the former mistress of the feudal lord on his request. This surprisingly turns into a good and rewarding marriage. Later the newlywed wife is kidnapped back by the feudal lord, and the husband and his father, master of the household (Mifune) have to decide whether to accept it or risk it all by objecting the authorities.
As with Harakiri, Kobayashi patiently builds the atmosphere and gets his viewer feeling related to the main characters. Storytelling might even seem slow with the first hour, but as Harakiri, this film just grows and grows and in the end left me stunned and breathless in admiration. I can also admit that I cried and still seem get moved writing this review the next day. While Harakiri is a study of samurai hypocrisy told brilliantly with a slowly opening plot, Rebellion is a study on the morals and cruelty of authorities. From these main themes opens a lot more: family relations, love and marriage, stubborness, honour...
I could praise still film much more, but I just say: See it for yourself. Essential viewing.