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|Index||85 reviews in total|
74 out of 79 people found the following review useful:
"Every Samurai Longs To Be Master Of A Castle", 5 August 2000
Author: Michael Coy (email@example.com) from London, England
Washizu is a brave samurai who helps his lord to fight off a violent
rebellion. Washizu and his friend Miki are riding through Cobweb Forest
when a spirit appears to them and makes predictions which fire their
ambitions. When Washizu explains this vision to his wife Asaji, she urges
him to murder his lord and rule in his stead. Thus the tragedy
Kurosawa's interpretation of Macbeth is visually fascinating. Swirling mist, colossal trees dripping with rain, rich black volcanic soil and bulky fortress architecture provide the imposing, dread-laden backdrop against which the humans move in superbly stylized patterns. The director chose to shoot the action on Mount Fuji precisely because of the volcanic soil - and even had truckloads brought to the studio for pickup shots.
Westerners unfamiliar with Noh are missing a huge part of the film's meaning. This thousand-year-old theatrical tradition corresponds broadly to our Elizabethan Tragedy, and Kurosawa shows how the two cultural strains, eastern and western, interlock and interact. The one illumines the other.
The Noh stage must have on it three pine branches and a symbolic Shinto temple-arch. In the film, shots are carefully composed to include tangles of branches in the foreground, and the vast entrance gate of Washizu's fortress serves for the temple arch. And yet Kurosawa is not including these details redundantly, for mere form's sake - the ubiquitous branches, framing the human action, remind us all the time of the forest nemesis awaiting Washizu. The arch is Washizu's interface with the world - open in the early stages, but gradually less so as the protagonist retreats into his own diseased inner self.
A Noh play features a "doer" (Shite) and a "companion" (Waku) who plays a subordinate role. Washizu and Asaji are the Shite and Waku respectively. Elements in the Noh include a battle-drama (we get one here) and a so-called "wig drama", in which a female character dominates the action. This is the central portion of the film, in the quiet of the fortress quarters, when Asaji ruthlessly manipulates her husband's ambition. Every Noh play has a ghost which appears to the Shite, and the spirit in the forest fulfils that function. Noh plays are never original works, in that (by a venerable convention) they are re-workings of ancient legends. Kurosawa follows tradition by quarrying his tale from Shakespeare's play.
There is no western term to describe the stylized striking of poses so important in Noh. Our word "dance" is a crude word which approximates to, but does not convey, the grace of the Japanese art-form. Asaji, alone with the blood-stain, gives us a glimpse of this delightful ritual.
Finally, Noh contains an aural richness almost totally absent from western tragedy - the complex rhythms of stamping and percussion which accompany the spoken word. In the film, the rhythmic patterns of horses' hooves on soil, and Washizu's bare feet on the boards of the banquet hall, are meant to reinforce the mood as they creep into our emotions by subliminal insistence.
Isuzu Yamada is terrific as Asaji. Her stillness absolutely oozes determination, contrasting strongly with her husband's hollow bluster.
It seems that Kurosawa cherished the concept of a Noh Macbeth for some years before committing it to celluloid. Apparently the project had to be scrapped in 1952 because Welles' Macbeth was nearing completion, and Kurosawa did not want the two films to suffer by being endlessly compared. This version, then, had to wait until 1957 to be realised.
The director is not afraid to add his own flourishes to the well-known story. We hear of the notorious traitor Fujimaki who disembowelled himself in a room of the fortress. The exact spot is now known as the Forbidden Room, a place of evil omen with its indelible bloodstain on the floor. It is a symbol which encapsulates the spirit of the film, interweaving the related themes of treachery, blood and guilt. In a brilliant transition, we are taken to a change of scene by the ripping down of a banner by galloping horsemen. Washizu at the pinnacle of his arrogance is filmed from below with severe foreshortening, conveying his vainglory more effectively than words ever could. The death scene, with its railing, hysterical protagonist and relentless volleys of arrows (their grouped shafts recalling the fateful forest) has enormous power and lives long in the viewer's memory.
60 out of 68 people found the following review useful:
Best Shakespeare on Film, 22 January 2004
Author: Prof_Lostiswitz from Cyberia
As most people know, this is Shakespeare's Macbeth rendered by Kurosawa into
Noh format for cinema. Not for nothing is Akira Kurosawa regarded as Japan's
greatest director, for this is the best cinematic version of any Shakespeare
play (and also one of Kurosawa's best films). Kurosawa had the advantage of
working in a different language (Japanese), so he didn't have to agonize
over the usual dilemma - whether to use Shakespeare's rotund oratory and
blank verse (which is glorious, but goes badly on screen). Kurosawa
essentially translates Shakespeare's poetry into visual images, while
keeping dialogue to a minimum. He also had the good fortune of accessing two
great cultures - European literature and Japanese visual art (he was
originally a painter before entering cinema as a set-designer). There are
many painterly images reminiscent of Ukiyo-e (e.g. Washizu full of
The Noh style of acting (like Kabuki, but more refined) seems stilted and exaggerated for the first few minutes; then you realize that is ideally suited to a story like this - more natural acting would seem out of place, as other Macbeth-movies go to prove.
The Japanese title of this film translates as "Cobweb Castle" (or Spider City) and this really should have been the title in English. The film is full of the notion of spiders spinning webs (and plots) in secret. It is worth noting that the witch (or "monster") is first seen with a ghostly spinning-wheel. This symbolizes the thread of fate, but also reflects the cobweb theme.
The story is sometimes slow-moving, but you have to realize that this is a story of insidious slow rot (hence the references to spiders and cobwebs). The decay is punctured by occasional bursts of violent action, as befits the story. The black-and-white picture adds to the creepiness, and the atmosphere is so thick that the movie works more effectively than "Ran" (Kurosawa's more polished Shakespeare-adaptation).
Macbeth is the great-granddaddy of the entire horror genre, and Kurosawa is a worthy descendant.
34 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Another haunting movie masterpiece from Kurosawa., 8 July 2003
Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
In my opinion 'Throne Of Blood' is almost as brilliant as Kurosawa's more celebrated 'Rashomon'. It's almost impossible to fault this brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. It's the most compelling version of the story I have seen, even better than Polanski's outstanding film of the early 1970s, which until seeing 'Throne Of Blood' was my favourite. Kurosawa is without doubt one of the greatest film makers of all time, and watching this movie is experiencing a master at work. Toshiro Mifune gives another brilliant performance and Isuzu Yamada, who plays his wife (the equivalent of the Lady Macbeth character) is absolutely chilling. The stylized acting combined with the superb cinematography gives this movie a frightening nightmarish feel, yet the characters are always human. This makes it a very powerful and haunting movie. I don't seem to see 'Throne Of Blood' mentioned a lot as one of Kurosawa's best, but I was incredibly impressed by it, and it comes with my highest recommendation. This is a brilliant movie and to call it a masterpiece is no exaggeration.
27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
more should watch this, 16 May 2004
Author: malkane316 from NI
As much as I praise Mifune, it may well be Yamada who stands out in Kurosawa's version of Macbeth. Her Lady Macbeth is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen, a forerunner to Sadako. Dressed in Noh make-up, slow moving like the world's most effective predator, unblinking, she is, without a doubt, the true lady Macbeth. She turns Mifune towards murder, and, although she is seen going mad at the end, we do not see her die. The tragedy of the tale is heightened by the fact that we are told at the start what will happen. Every shot Kurosawa composes is memorable. The arrow through the neck, the thread spinning witch in the forest, Mifune turning his back on his master, all are haunting and unforgettable. This film cannot be praised enough, and although it is not a horror movie, it puts all modern horror movies to shame with its deadly atmosphere. Great Quotes: Asaji. Every samurai longs to be the master of a castle'. 10 out of ten.
26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Shakespeare meets Kurosowa (round 1), 25 May 2002
Author: OttoVonB from Switzerland
Round 2 being "Ran", an adaptation of King Lear. This first adaptation sets the bard's play "McBeth" in medieval Japan. Kurosowa decided to use a technique halfway between nô theater and adventure cinema and succeeds as always to deliver something cool, exciting and involving (not to mention time-withstanding!). Many of this movie's detractors insist that the acting is exaggerated and that Kurosowa's directing method is cold and impersonal... for your information, nô theater is about exaggerated mannerism and expression (and the script is theatrical [yet without piling up trite dialogue]) but one look at Mifune and you realize that this is in fact astonishing acting pushed a little further (his character is cool while occasionally veering towards a state of superstitious alertness, then slowly descends into madness), and he plays a villain. Your appreciation of this film depends on whether or not you can sympathize with a flawed and ultimately insane person. As for the directing, it isn't cold at all (quite visceral in fact when Mifune's character gives in to his fits and his final scene is astoundingly gripping). Never will Kurosowa be confused with the overly intellectual and distant (and inferior) Kubrick. So to all you detractors, please grant this film the following: even though it makes for an unsettling show of human corruption and deals with dark themes, it does so in a very masterful way. Not Kurosowa's best, but still a very worthy and refreshing addition to his work.
27 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Another ambitious film from Akira Kurosawa., 7 August 2001
Author: Michael DeZubiria (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Luoyang, China
Throne of Blood is, in fact, ambitious as a film as well as in its meaning.
It suggests that ambition, when based on whimsical motivation, can
lead to the destruction of very close relationships, and even one's own
ruination. Throne of Blood begins with a series of messengers bringing news
to their daimyo about an invasion of North Castle by the Fujimaki, which is
led by an enemy samurai named Inui. The invasion is broken and then bravely
retaliated against by two armies which are led by two samurai, Washizu and
Miki. As they are returning to the daimyo, they come across a ghostly
in the woods, who predicts leadership positions to be attained by each of
them that very day. These predictions come true to the last detail, which
sets off a destructive chain of events.
Miki becomes the leader of Fort One, as predicted, and Washizu becomes the leader of the North Castle, as predicted, but it is also predicted that Miki's son will rule North Castle after Washizu, which causes problems later in the film. Despite their good fortune, Miki and especially Washizu must keep their encounter with the fortune-telling spirit in the woods a secret because, if word gets out, Washizu is likely to become endangered because people will want him dead out of suspicion that he will try to kill Yoshiteru, Miki's son, to keep him from taking over Washizu's position. In an effort to prevent any of this, Washizu decides to name Yoshiteru as his heir, but Asaji, his wife, forbids this, saying that she is pregnant. It is Asaji who pressures Washizu into having Miki killed so that he can be the sole ruler of all of the provinces, but when this happens, the other castles turn against him and seek to avenge the leaders who have been killed under his orders. In the end, he is killed by his own army, which has lost all faith in him and has also turned against him.
There was a very interesting use of symbolism in Throne of Blood that is worth pointing out here. From literally the beginning to the end of the film, the setting is covered in thick fog. One scene that comes to mind that quite clearly communicates the meaning of this fog is early in the film, just after Washizu and Miki saw the spirit in the woods, and had their futures revealed to them. As they are riding out of the woods and back to the castle, they begin to cross large, flat plains that are covered in this stiflingly thick fog. There is literally a couple of minutes of footage of them riding their horses into the fog, then back toward the camera, then into the fog in another direction, and then back toward the camera, and so on. This fog seems to symbolize a natural inability to see ahead, or to see the future, as it were. This technique is especially effective this early in the film because much of the two men's decisions later in the film are founded on what the spirit told them, yet the fog symbolizes a type of foreshadowing that suggests that this premonition cannot be correct.
Throne of Blood is also structured in a very unique way. The film starts off showing a desolated castle, as well as its surroundings, in which there is a sizeable gravestone marking a burial site. While this is being shown, there is a song being sung by an unseen choir about a brave warrior who once ruled this now-deserted castle, but who was `murdered by ambition.' At the end of the film, we see this same montage, and the same song is heard, and this is where we learn that the gravestone marks Washizu's burial site.
Kurosawa used different camera techniques to communicate parts of the story or to emphasize it in various ways much more than he did in other films, like Ran, Kagemusha, and High and Low. One particularly noteworthy example occurred late in the film, as Washizu is standing over his army. Washizu stands on an elevated walkway, and his army is crowded on the ground below, looking up at him. There is a low angle shot from amidst the men, and while Washizu is small in the shot itself, he is high above the other men, looking down at them, and they are all looking up at him in unison. However, it would seem that, rather than use this shot to convey a sense of superiority or of dominance, Kurosawa probably meant to emphasize his position of power, because this is the scene in which his army turns against him and he is shot with dozens of their arrows. The low angle shot would contradict Washizu's descent into madness if it was meant to show superiority, but to emphasize his position of power at this point in the film, it makes his downfall much more dramatic.
This is usually not the case with Akira Kurosawa, but Throne of Blood reflects more of a formalistic style of direction. For example, his use of high and low angle shots, as well as the extensive symbolic use of the fog, suggest more formalism here than realism. Besides that, and probably more obviously, is the way that the strange spirit in the woods was presented. She was in a radiantly lit hut in the middle of the dark woods, and Washizu's encounter with several other spirits later in the film was presented among an extensive use of cutting and editing. The extensive use of very long takes and slow action seen in Ran and Kagemusha is definitely seen here, but not nearly as much. There are scenes in which these long takes are seen, but in addition to them there can be found many more short takes and highly edited sequences, which were largely absent from the previous films. But having done this with the same skill, Kurosawa has fashioned another samurai masterpiece.
18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
A Kurosawa Classic, 1 April 2005
Author: gftbiloxi (email@example.com) from Biloxi, Mississippi
A great deal has been made of the fact that THRONE OF BLOOD (also known
as SPIDER'S WEB CASTLE) is drawn from one of Shakespeare's most
celebrated plays. This is both a blessing and a curse, for while it
gives western audiences a point of reference, it also invites all sorts
of comparisons that viewers familiar with the Shakespeare play feel
honor-bound to make--and that can get in the way of seeing the film as
it is rather than what we expect it to be. And that would be a great
pity, because what it is in and of itself is quite fine indeed.
The cast is a very strong ensemble, with frequent Kurosawa star Torshiro Mifune leading the film with a remarkably fine performance as the ambitious warrior Taketori Washizu. To my mind, however, the most memorable performance is offered by Isuzu Yamada as Lady Washizu--who plays the role with a demonic stillness that cracks into physical action only when she is completely sure of herself or in utter desperation. It is one of the most disturbing characterizations I have ever encountered.
As usual in any Kurosawa film, the imagery involved is extremely powerful, and the moody tone of the film quickly draws viewers in--and once ensnared there is no escape; the film holds your attention with considerable ease throughout. Even so, I would not recommend THRONE OF BLOOD to western audiences who have never seen a Kurosawa film, for it is so completely Japanese in aesthetic that some may find it hard to grasp. It is best seen after you are already familiar with both Kurosawa's work and Japanese cinema in general.
The film is available via Criterion DVD, which is quite good, with a nicely restored transfer and bonus features that include the original trailer, a choice of subtitle translations (I prefer the Hoagland translation), and a somewhat awkward but ultimately rewarding commentary track by Michael Jeck. If you're a Kurosawa fan and you've never seen THRONE OF BLOOD, this is your opportunity; if you're looking to replace an existing video with a DVD, this one is likely as good as it gets. Strongly recommended.
Gary F. Taylor aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Combination of Shakespeare & Kurosawa, 25 April 2002
Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
Directors don't come much better than Kurosawa, writers don't come much
better than Shakespeare, and movies don't come much better than this
excellent combination of the two. Add Mifune's acting, plus a good
supporting cast (including a really good performance by Isuzu Yamada), and
you have a top-quality, classic film. In retelling the story of "Macbeth"
with characters from medieval Japan, Kurosawa does honor to the original and
creates a fine achievement in its own right.
Much of the time, when Shakespeare plots are transferred to different settings, what results is only a shadow of the original, because too many directors have only a limited grasp of what Shakespeare's deep masterpieces are all about. That is not at all the case here - Kurosawa shows a great appreciation for the themes and potential of the Macbeth story, and adds plenty of masterful touches of his own, creating a distinctive, memorable atmosphere and characters that come to life in their own right in addition to serving as worthy parallels to the Macbeth characters. There are many fine details that enhance both the medieval Japanese setting and also the important themes of the story itself.
Whether you like Shakespeare, Kurosawa, or both, "Throne of Blood" is an excellent movie that should not disappoint.
14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Macbeth's Version in Japanese Fields - Another Masterpiece of Akira Kurosawa, 7 September 2005
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In the Sixteenth Century in Japan, the brave generals Taketori Washizu
(Toshirô Mifune) and Yoshiaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki) are invited to visit
their lord in his castle after a battle wined by them against a traitor
general. In the way to the castle, they meet in the forest an evil
spirit that foresees their future from the bottom of their hearts, with
Washizu being the lord of an important mansion in the fields of their
lord, Miki the commander of the First Fortress and Miki's son the
successor of Washizu. When they meet their master, the first part of
the prophecy comes true for Washizu and Miki. However, the wife of
Washizu poisons his heart with calumnies and malicious feelings against
the lord and Miki. Washizu kills them both, becoming the new lord of
the Spider's Web Castle, but tormented by his guilty and afraid of his
"Kumonosu Jô" is another masterpiece of Akira Kurosawa, indeed a version of Shakespeare's Macbeth play brilliantly transposed to the scenario of the feudalistic Japan of the Sixteenth Century. The shootings and the cinematography are very impressive even in the present days, and the performances are outstanding, highlighting Toshirô Mifune in the role of a strong warrior in the battlefields, but weak in front of his venomous and ambitious wife. The sequence with the arrows in the end of the story is amazingly perfect. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Trono Manchado de Sangue" ("Throne Stained by Blood")
12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Kurosawa's masterful retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth, 26 December 1998
Author: EzyRyder from Los Angeles
Akira Kurosawa would end up using Shakespearean influence on two of his
films. Throne of Blood is Kurosawa's adaptation of Shakespeare's play,
Macbeth, but in a feudal Japanese setting.
The film begins with Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Yoshaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki) winning a fierce battle for their lord. Afterwards, they are invited to the lord's castle. On their way there, they come across a spirit in the forest. the spirit tells Washizu that he will soon become in command of a castle but that he will not rule long, and Yoshaki's son will soon takeover. Washizu is soon convinced that these predictions will come true, and becomes consumed with greed and evil in order to make sure that they do indeed come true.
In this film Kurosawa uses a more still and quiet filming style than was used in his previous films (with the exception of Ikiru). A style that he continued to use for the rest of his career. The Shakespearean influence is obviously there, not only in story, but the film itself has a very theatre-esque feeling to it.
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