Tuesday, June 1, 2010

THRONE OF BLOOD (Akira Kurosawa, 1957, Japan)

Washizu betrays his master, best friend, and ultimately himself as he ascends and violently descends his throne of blood. Akira Kurosawa adeptly adapts MACBETH into feudal Japan utilizing classic Noh dramaturgy, a telltale heartless story of a man whose pride is his piercing downfall.

Kurosawa bookends the film with an ethereal chorus proclaiming the fall of a mighty man, his empire nothing more than a obelisk in the black soil. Lord Tzuzuki soon learns that his nemesis has attacked his castles but the brave heroes Washizu and Miki fought valiantly and routed the aggressor. But the two heroes become lost in the unearthly fog as if drawn towards their fate, where a ghostly figure weaves the future. Thus begins Washizu’s downward spiral into madness and murder.

Washizu lives a self-fulfilling prophecy, seeing the world itself as a potential enemy, the thick breath of fog or a cawing raptor as a supernatural omen taunting him, his future written in blood. Kurosawa isn’t so much concerned with these elements (though they are visually interesting) as he is with Washizu himself: was he subverted by temptation, or were evil intentions always lurking beneath the surface? Does a good man have bad thoughts? Kurosawa seems to say that thoughts are ethereal and sometime beyond our control, but actions always define the wo/man. His wife becomes conspirator and falls victim to maddening guilt, forever unable to cleanse her treacherous hands. Washizu’s fate is predicated by a murder of crows released from a marching forest, and decided by his once loyal soldiers. Final Grade: (A+)


Shubhajit said...

What a majestic film from the Japanese master this is. I especially loved the climax when he's betrayed by his own men courtesy the all too foreboding prophecy. And yeah, it certainly ranks among the greatest adaptations of the bard's plays. Great writeup as usual.

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks buddy! Though I haven't seen every adaptation, this rates high on the list with Welle's OTHELLO and MCBETH (I have yet to see CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT).

I read that in the final scene real archers were standing just off-camera and firing the arrows. Mifune would gesture as to what direction he would stumble so they wouldn't hit him! If you watch the scene closely, you can see his eyes and hands actually orchestrate his movements.

Chris, a librarian said...

Isuzu Yamada as Asaji is cold blooded perfection.