Monday, August 4, 2008


Although I saw few movies from Japanese movie director Akira Kurosawa, I'd straightforwardly say that Ran is his best movie ever.

This re-adaptation of William Shakespeare's play King Lear tells the story of the aging Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji who has three sons (Taro, Jiro and Saburo). Hidetora divides his land in three for his sons and expects them to stay united. However, Hidetora Ichimonji, while being officially retired, wants to keep some prerogatives related to the title of Great Lord. At the light of this, Saburo, Ichimonji's most honest son, is banished for questioning his father sanity. On the other hand, Taro and Jiro, while pretending to love their father, individually conspire to strip Ichimonji's from his title to have the full control of their father's lands without any share.

While Shakespeare's King Lear is certainly an outstanding play, it doesn't necessarily depict its characters the same way it is done in Ran. The most beautiful thing about this is Kurosawa's ability to talk briefly - albeit in an elegant way - about the leading characters' past. Thus, it confers to Ran a visible psychological depth through clever dialogues thanks to scriptwriters Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide.

Besides, these beautiful dialogues are actually the movie's pillars. In fact, like a boxer who jabs his opponent without mercy, Ran throws at us its most radiant jewel, which is its thematic wealth. With that said, Kurosawa mainly uses the story's premises to explore the theme of a relation between a father and sons. With the indirect display of feelings through a self-imposed cold attitude, we may think that Jiro and Taro actually loves their father.

However, in an Asian society that doesn't tolerate subjectivity at all, it's with Jiro and Taro's conversations made behind their father's backs that we get to see how rubbish their filial love is. Furthermore, the portrayal of such a hypocrisy gradually leads us to Kurosawa's visual argumentation about the absurdity of war with the movie's stunning cinematography. To that matter, I'm thinking about the bloody war scene in which the film's score (written by Toru Takemitsu) plays while the ambient sound is muted. After all, it's surprising how Kurosawa can beautifully illustrate his anti-war stances with a very violent scene.

Finally, even though the movie fights its way through with some relatively useless scenes (i.e. some parts of Ichimonji's journey in the wilderness with Kyoami and Tango), Ran is certainly worth watching. Of course, the willingly cold acting style may make many Westerners cringe. However, rest assured: the actors manage to handle their character more skilfully than one would think for we have to appreciate what the characters' indirect affirmations imply to understand the story. All in all, this Jidaigeki (時代劇) is definitely one of the best Asian movies ever made.

Rating: 4.5/5


Japan/France (1985)
Length: 160 minutes
Genre: War drama
Screenplay by: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu and Daisuke Ryu

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