- Throne of Blood review by HW
Like Kurosawa’s other epic ‘Ran’, this is another great example of how well Shakespeare adapts to Medieval Japan. Kurosawa closely followed the bard’s original plot of a warrior murdering his lord to achieve more power and succumbing to violent paranoia; except moving the location from Scotland to an equally eerie Japanese landscape where samurai clans warred for dominance. Although I think this film lacks the emotional heart of ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Ran’, it’s worth watching for Kurosawa’s mastery of atmosphere and suspense. Every scene is wreathed in swirling mist and complete with dark imagery: from wild animalistic omens to pale witches and ghosts. The film is dominated by Kurosawa’s favourite actor, Toshiro Mifune. As the lead character Washizu, Mifune effectively portrays the hero’s decline from an honourable warrior to a crazed, raging tyrant prowling through each scene like a vicious tiger. The actress Isuzu Yamada is disturbing as Washizu’s scheming wife, pushing him towards murder and losing her sanity as a result. The message against moral corruption and taking power by force is just as clear in this striking film as in the original play.
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The horrors of feudalism
- Throne of Blood review by FP
Perhaps it takes someone from outside the Anglosphere to consider the pseudo-blasphemous proposition, How can I improve on Shakespeare? Kurosawa does so, in three vital ways: he shows us a friendship between his Macbeth (Washizu) and Banquo (Miki); he deepens and fully explicates the motives of Washizu and Lady Washizu (in particular, they attempt to thwart the prophecy by conceiving a child); to do the latter, he stretches the timeline. Washizu's fall is therefore less precipitous than Macbeth's and more clearly motivated by grief, both at what he's done and what has happened to him.
The performances, particularly of Ishizu Yamada as Lady Washizu, are extraordinary. The Witch is genuinely terrifying. Washizu being murdered by his own men, instead of a vengeful Macduff, is another fascinating change from the play, focusing on the feudal lord as a lord of men: when he loses the faith of the men, he's doomed. Yet, that only highlights the social tragedy of the play: that Macbeth/Washizu is able to get away with so much for so long, with the tacit support of his men, is still more chilling.
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