Tag Archives: ran

Ran – Review

5 Aug

Akira Kurosawa is a cinema god. I say that without any hesitation. Seven SamuraiYojimbo, and Drunken Angel are just a few of his outstanding films that make up his filmography. Many consider his last masterpiece to be his last historic epic, Ran. Set during the 1600s and based partially on William Shakespeare’s King Lear and legends of the daimyō Mori Motonari, Ran is a spectacle to look at and also stands strong as a powerful and deep family drama.

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Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) is an old, powerful warlord who used excessive violence and brutality to achieve his position. At age 70, he decides to step down and give all of his power and castles to his three sons: Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), and Saburo (Daisuke Ryû). Saburo declines the offer and warns his father of the mistake he is making, but is banished by Hidetora. Saburo’s prediction come true, however, and the two remaining sons betray Hidetora and fight for power over the entire kingdom which drives Hidetora to insanity. While all of this is happening, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), whose family was slaughtered by Hidetora, is quietly pulling strings to ensure the collapse of the Ichimonji clan.

As you can see from this summary, the story and characters are very reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy. There is much family turmoil and violence, which results in a much larger scale of bloodshed. That’s really what this movie is about, in my opinion: the personal and the chaotic. This family is so powerful, and their warriors so loyal, that they will march into battle and kill who they have to in order for the person they serve under can achieve whatever selfish gain they desire. This begs the question: How far should loyalty really go? This is answered by some characters in this movie who let their moral compass really guide them in the right direction.

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Color is a very important part of Ran, and definitely gives the film the look of some sort of moving Expressionist painting. Interestingly enough, Kurowsawa spent two years storyboarding exactly how he wanted scenes to look. By storyboarding, I mean that he painted scenes, complete with vibrant colors, just so he could get the look of the film exactly right. Amongst other huge problems that he faced during the shooting of the movie, one being the death of his wife, he was also losing his eye sight and had to have people frame the shots based exactly on what he had painted. Anything to get the film done the way he needed it to be done.

The acting in this movie is just as interesting as the visuals. Tatsuya Nakadai is brilliant as Hidetora. Absolutely brilliant. His facial expressions and exceptional physical acting really sells the decline of his mental health over the course of the film. The other actor who really stands out to me is Meiko Harada and her performance as Lady Kaede. While you can’t call her a “villain”, per se, she does act as the main antagonist to the Ichimonji clan. She is beautiful, yet the lack of eye brows makes her look odd. Underneath this odd beauty is a thunderstorm of restless determination that really breaks through in certain scenes. She is a blast to watch.

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Ran is an iconic masterpiece of Kurosawa’s that has proved that he is a master, especially at the age he made the film (well into his 70s). Death of loved ones and poor eyesight were not going to stop him from getting his vision made, and thank your lucky stars it did. This is not only visually beautiful, but soulfully, even though it shows the heinous side of humanity, their thrust for power, and the chaos that comes with it. To anyone who doesn’t mind a lengthy movie, owe it to yourself not to miss Ran.