A story of greed, a lust for power, and ultimate revenge. The Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji has decided to step aside to make room for the younger blood of his three sons, Taro, Jiro, and Saburo, the Lord's only wish now being to live out his years as an honored guest in the castle of each of his sons in turn. While the older two sons flatter their father, the youngest son attempts to warn him of the folly of expecting the three sons to remain united; enraged at the younger son's attempt to point out the danger, the father banishes him. True to the younger son's warning, however, the oldest Son soon conspires with the second son to strip The Great Lord of everything, even his title. Written by
Akira Kurosawa referred to his previous film, Kagemusha (1980), as a "dress rehearsal" for this film. He spent ten years storyboarding every shot in the film as paintings. The resulting collection of images was published with the screenplay. See more »
During the battle at the third castle, there is a sequence where Hidetora emerges from the castle at the top of a flight of stairs and confronts enemy soldiers ascending the stairs. When he retreats, his bodyguards suddenly appear and retreat with him, even though they were not present moments earlier. See more »
What madness have I spoken? Wherein lies my senility?
Saburo Naotora Ichimonji:
I'll tell you. What kind of world do we live in? One barren of loyalty and feeling.
I'm aware of that.
Saburo Naotora Ichimonji:
So you should be! You spilled an ocean of blood. You showed no mercy, no pity. We too are children of this age... weaned on strife and chaos. We are your sons, yet you count on our fidelity. In my eyes, that makes you a fool. A senile old fool!
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Based on Shakespeare's King Lear, this film follows the story of the aging warlord Hidetora who, in an attempt to restore peace, divides his kingdom between his three sons - Taro, Jiro, and Saburo - and retires from his duties. However, one of his sons sees this as unwise and is banished by his father, leaving his two brothers in charge of two of the three castles left in their hands. It isn't long before they are overtaken by greed and eventually betray their father, leaving him in the hands of a philosophical jester and a loyal retainer. This betrayal ultimately leads to war, dividing the family and driving Hidetora insane.
The remarkable script, which contains many of my favorite lines from any film, still manages to break its way through the confinement of subtitles and reveals itself to be one of the richest Kurosawa ever wrote. He has obviously worked equally hard on the look and feel of the film - the cinematography being excellent (example: the long, continuous shot of Saburo's men charging on horseback across a river).
There's also something rather frightening about it that I can't quite put my finger on. The first battle, which is the film's turning point, is the most horrifying, yet strangely beautiful, battles ever filmed. A good effect used is the loss of sound, with only Toru Takemitsu's haunting score to be heard. The entire battle lasts less than ten minutes and there is no uplifting or bombastic music to be heard, but in my opinion, it's Ran's finest scene, and thus the finest scene ever.
What Kurosawa managed to get rather than give though was excellent performances from his actors, none more brilliant than Tatsuya Nakadai's Hidetora, Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede (a woman similar to Lady Macbeth but with a different hidden agenda), and the strangely-named Peter as Kyoami.
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