Foreign Language Thursday: Ran (1985)

2 06 2011

Today we visit Kurosawa’s take on a Shakespeare classic. “Ran” is obviously based upon King Lear, but actually resembles quite little outside of the general premise. We begin on a beautiful hilltop as Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) of the powerful Ichimonji family is dining with his three sons and allies. He decides that it is time to step aside and pass on his legacy to his sons, he gives the First castle and leadership of his house to his eldest and the Second and Third castles to the other two. While the two eldest sons, Taro and Jiro, have nothing but sweet words for their father, Saburo calls him foolish and that Hidetora should not trust the other two. Hidetora obviously takes this as an insult and banishes Saburo and well as his adviser Tango who agrees him. Of course they end up being correct as Taro and Jiro turn on their father and one another. Ran is one of Akira Kurosawa’s largest films, taking place on a huge scale with castles, vast armies, and wide landscapes but at the same time it is really about the characters like most of his movies are.

“Only the birds and the beasts live in solitude.”

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a Kurosawa film would not be the colorful settings, yet that is what stands out the most in his final classic. Many scenes take place in locales that accentuate the green hilltops which rustle in the wind and the crystal clear blue skies. Armies feature distinct flags or red, yellow, blue, and white. Even during battle the red flames and great splashes of blood help make every scene vibrant. It all makes for a very unlikely setting considering how much death and destruction occur throughout “Ran”.

“Men prefer sorrow over joy… suffering over peace!”

Ultimately “Ran” is about chaos and violence bred from our own desires. Hidetora was a merciless ruler in his time; he murdered, mutilated, and burnt down entire castles. Taro, the eldest, loves his new found power and would do anything to hold it while Jiro believes Taro to be a fool and that he should rule in his place. Taro’s wife, Lady Kaede, soon becomes the power behind the throne as she pulls the strings of war and violence in revenge for what was done to her family. In “Ran” everyone gets pulls into the violence, those responsible all have different goals and motivations but produce the same result while those ranging from completely innocent to only a little innocent get caught up in the aftermath. “Ran” primarily invokes pity, pity for all and on many different levels.

“Ran” is a beautiful, provoking piece of work from one of the greatest directors of all time. The colors play off one another strikingly well and although it is a visual treat, “Ran” has the depth within it’s characters to be more than just a war drama but also an intense look at the individual’s motivations and drives.

Score: 96/100

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