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.
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
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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