In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
Japanese warlord Hidetori Ichimonji decides the time has come to retire and divide his fiefdom among his three sons. His eldest and middle sons - Taro and Jiro - agree with his decision and promise to support him for his remaining days. The youngest son Saburo disagrees with all of them arguing that there is little likelihood the three brothers will remain united. Insulted by his son's brashness, the warlord banishes Saburo. As the warlord begins his retirement, he quickly realizes that his two eldest sons selfish and have no intention of keeping their promises. It leads to war and only banished Saburo can possibly save him. Written by
Ran takes viewers to a place they would rather not explore on their own. In a world of cruelty, Kurasowa has shown how the moments within the horror can have beauty. Shakespeare wrote King Lear as a mirror on the human condition. We do not have to be kings and princesses to identify with the father's desire for the well being of his children, even if his own life was one of cruelty and pain. We see this theme throughout great literature and film. What Ran has done is to provide the viewer with many small moments within the pain to realize the beauty. Even the moment of epiphany for Hidetora, when his actions achieve his madness, is one of surpassing beauty. As the storm rages outside the small house of the prince he blinded, whose parents he killed, whose sister he forcibly married off, the simple sounds of the flute provide an intense focus on the here and now. It is at this moment when Hidetora recognizes that he himself sowed the seeds of his own destruction. There is no dialogue, no swashbuckling, just the terrible beauty of the music. As with many of Kurasowa's films, despite their epic scope, it is the small paint strokes that make up the master's canvas.
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