Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two View Movie Review: Ran

Ran (1985), written & directed by Akira Kurosawa, takes place in Japan during the Warring States Era, which lasted from the 15th to the 17th century. In the film, the warlord Hidetora splits his kingdom into to three parts to give to his three sons. The two eldest sons, Taro & Jiro, honor their father's decision, but the youngest son, Saburo, thinks it's a bad idea. Saburo reminds Hidetora that he gained power through violence & betrayal, & his brothers will do the same. Hidetora banishes Saburo for his words, but soon, Hidetora learns that Saburo was right, as the Taro gets influenced by his treacherous wife, Lady Kaede, to dispose of his father & his brothers.

Ran was Kurosawa's last epic film & was the most expensive Japanese film at the time. Kurosawa was inspired by the story of the warlord, Mori Motanari, who had three faithful & talented sons, but Kurosawa wanted to imagine what would happen if they were terrible. When writing the script, Kurosawa realized that the story was much like Shakespeare's King Lear, & he was inspired further from that text. This wasn't the first time Kurosawa has worked with a Shakespeare play, as Throne of Blood was adapted from Macbeth. It seems like those tragic stories were made for Japanese film, particularly with the acting. While most of the acting in Ran contains conventional method, some characters, like Hidetora & Lady Kaede, follows the Japanese Noh theater method of acting. This included heavy make-up & sudden, violent body language.

Still, Ran strays in the themes of King Lear. In the play, Lear was rather innocent for the pain that he suffered, while Hidetora was a cruel & murderous ruler. This is a definite tale of karma, as well as chaos & warfare. This is most prominent when Taro & Jiro attack the Third Castle, Hidetora's residence. Kurosawa had all sound removed besides the muted & atmospheric score of Toru Takemitsu. It is a jarring & disturbing scene, as is the rest of the film, but it is a great success.

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