The Japanese, as a nation, were losing a sense of who they were after World War II.
Everything they had been taught to believe in was gone, and they had to develop a new identity much like the characters in the movie did. The characters in Seven Samurai think of themselves in ways that no longer matter in the world they're living in, and have to find ways to either confirm who they think they are, or redefine themselves. In some ways, the movie is about how well they succeed or fail at that task.
Questions About Identity
Which characters cling closely to the identities society has given them? Which ones strive to break out of those identities?
How do the characters' failures reflect on their identities? How do their successes?
Does the movie believe that individuals ultimately create their identity, or that society will always dictate their identities for them?
What kinds of suffering do the characters endure for the sake of who they were? How much do they endure for the sake of who they want to be?
Chew on This
The characters are still bound by their older identities, and try to hold onto them in the face of the chaos of this era.
The characters cannot hope to hold onto their old selves and are fighting here to create new ones.