Following World War II, a retired professor approaching his autumn years finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war-torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
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
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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