A petty thief with an utter resemblance to a samurai warlord is hired as the lord's double. When the warlord later dies the thief is forced to take up arms in his place.

Director:

Akira Kurosawa
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Shingen Takeda / Kagemusha
Tsutomu Yamazaki ... Nobukado Takeda
Ken'ichi Hagiwara Ken'ichi Hagiwara ... Katsuyori Takeda
Jinpachi Nezu ... Sohachiro Tsuchiya
Hideji Ôtaki Hideji Ôtaki ... Masakage Yamagata
Daisuke Ryû ... Nobunaga Oda
Masayuki Yui ... Ieyasu Tokugawa
Kaori Momoi ... Otsuyanokata
Mitsuko Baishô Mitsuko Baishô ... Oyunokata
Hideo Murota Hideo Murota ... Nobufusa Baba
Takayuki Shiho Takayuki Shiho ... Masatoyo Naito
Kôji Shimizu Kôji Shimizu ... Katsusuke Atobe
Noboru Shimizu Noboru Shimizu ... Masatane Hara
Sen Yamamoto Sen Yamamoto ... Nobushige Oyamada
Shuhei Sugimori Shuhei Sugimori ... Masanobu Kosaka
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Storyline

When a powerful warlord in medieval Japan dies, a poor thief recruited to impersonate him finds difficulty living up to his role and clashes with the spirit of the warlord during turbulent times in the kingdom. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During principal photography director Akira Kurosawa read the novel of War and Peace (1956) by Lev Tolstoy. See more »

Goofs

In the final battle there are at least 100 riflemen shown firing their matchlock rifles in volleys. The smoke generated by the matchlocks almost immediately dissipates. This indicates a more modern gunpowder was used in the matchlocks as the historically correct black powder load would blanket the battlefield with thick smoke after a handful of volleys. See more »

Quotes

[the double's aides are worried that others will find out he is an impostor]
Masakage Yamagata: Little Takemaru was a problem, but the horse is worse. It can tell. Only the late lord could ride it.
Nobufusa Baba: If the double falls off, everyone will suspect.
Nobukado Takeda: Lord Shingen has been ill. He must refrain from riding.
Masakage Yamagata: Good idea.
Masatane Hara: There are many other problems. We must be careful to keep the late lord's intentions.
Katsusuke Atobe: Tonight he will have to meet the late lord's mistresses. How will he be with them?
Masakage Yamagata: Our master has been ill. He must refrain ...
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Alternate Versions

In the original Japanese version, there are 20 minutes featuring Kenshin Uesugi. For some reason, these scenes were cut out of the USA version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Fear, Panic & Censorship (2000) See more »

User Reviews

 
Better than Shakespeare
26 July 2002 | by hart_keithSee all my reviews

I saw the director's cut about twenty years after I first saw the film. Kagemusha is as magnificent now as before, but what has changed in the meantime is my appreciation of the meaning of Shakespeare's plays. The history plays and most of the tragedies were about the political dilemmas facing the new Tudor state. The Elizabethan audience sat on the edge of their seats waiting to see how political order might be restored once it had been set in disarray. The Wars of the Roses sequence culminates in the late political tragedies -- Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet and Lear. The question is always the same. How is an impersonal modern state possible when its leader is a person, the King? Or is rule by office compatible with the human flaws of the person occupying it? Shakespeare was the client of a conservative aristocratic faction, no rabble-rousing democrat he. But he went so deep into this political question in the course of writing all his plays that he dug deeper into this core issue of modern politics than anyone since.

Kurosawa approaches the same question through the notion of a double,"the shadow of a warrior", Kagemusha. Here the contrast between the office of the political leader and its personal incumbent is brought vividly to life in so many ways. The period is the Japanese equivalent of England's War of the Roses, the transition from feudalism to the beginnings of the modern state. The losing side in this case is the one that tries to resolve the contradiction of personality and office by a subterfuge, a thief masquerading as a lord. The winning side and founder of the Japanese state is the Tokugawa clan. The climactic battle symbolises the passage from traditional to modern warfare, as the horses of the losers are mown down by fusillades of gunfire. The credits run as the corpse of the double crosses a submerged flag whose abstract symbolism shows us which aspects of feudalism the modern state will borrow. Personality is vanquished.

The aesthetic vision animating this movie is incredible. There is so much to look at and admire, perhaps interpret. One striking feature for me was the persistent strong breeze ripping through the banners, a symbol of the winds of change running through 16th century Japan, contemporary to Shakespeare's period. Because this drama was made by and for the modern cinema, in many ways Kurosawa's masterpiece is better than Shakespeare.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Japan | USA

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

10 October 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Kagemusha See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,000,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,017,462
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (International Cut) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo | 4-Track Stereo (Japan theatrical release)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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