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.
After securing a major victory on the battlefield, Taketoti Washizu and one of his commanders, Yoshiaki Miki, find themselves lost in the maze-like Spider's Web forest. They come across a spirit-like seer who tells them of their future: both have been promoted because of their victory that day; Washizu will someday be the Great Lord of the Spider's Web castle while Miki's son will someday rule as Great Lord as well. When they arrive at the castle, they learn that the first part of the prophecy is correct. Washizu has no desire to become Great Lord but his ambitious wife urges him to reconsider. When the current Great Lord makes a surprise visit to his garrison outpost, Washizu is again promoted to commander of his vanguard but his wife reminds him of the danger that comes with the position. As pressure mounts, Wahizu takes action leading to its inevitable conclusion.Written by
The Scottish Play gets a very Oriental makeover in this combination of samurai film and Noh theater from master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. As a fan of both AK and Shakespeare I owed it to myself to give this a go, particularly as this play has drawn many gifted filmmakers over the years, always to interesting results.
If you know Kurosawa's Seven Samurai or Yojombo, your expectations going into Throne of Blood will probably let you down at first. The energy and visual flair are there, but expressed very differently: a suffocating formality and simmering rage replaces the vitality and dynamism of those other films. Lost in a thick, perpetual fog, Kurosawa's characters stumble around like broken puppets, heavily made up in Noh theater makeup that is at first hard to adjust to. it creates a useful distance, and underlines the power of the cruel hand of Fate, moving its victims across an apocalyptic landscape to a shockingly violent conclusion, one you would do well not to preview online before viewing the film.
Of his three adaptations - Ran being a masterful retelling of King Lear and The Bad Sleep Well using elements of Hamlet - this is the least accessible, but also the most visionary and unique. Oddly enough, it has similarities to Orson Welles' earlier adaptation made half a world away. Both films focus on tribal symbolism, are doused in fog and could never conceivably have had the same impact in color.
If you're interested in either Japanese cinema or Shakespeare, this should definitely be near the top of your list. As an entry-point to Kurosawa's catalog, you'd probably be better off with some less weighty fare.
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