Saturday, March 05, 2005

Throne of Blood

Ever wonder what you get when you take Shakespeare's greatest work-a dark tale of hubris, death, insanity and betrayal-and make all of the characters samurais?

Only one of the greatest films ever made!

After flicking through the channels (all five of them!) I discovered that I was tempted to watch Britain's Eurovision song contest qualifier and was filled with utter horror. Rather than hang myself I decided to watch the Akira Kurosawa directed "Throne of Blood", the classic 1957 adaption of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The direction is classic Kurosawa: sweeping shots of rolling hills, men on horseback galloping to and fro (this time in and out of the mist) and lots of moody silence.

What sets this film apart is the acting. Toshiro Mifune plays Washizu (I'm assuming that's Japanese for "Macbeth" ;)) amazingly well. His fury and slow insanity really creeps into the film. It got to the point where I felt I didn't really need the subtitles: I knew the story and his facial expressions were enough to fillin the gaps.

But, lets face it, if the Macbeth character isn't incredibly well-acted then there's no use in talking about it. It's the Lady Macbeth character (played by Isuzu Yamada) who steals the show in my opinion. For what little screen time she actually gets her performance was excessively creepy. Every time I've seen a rendition of the play-whether it is a film or a play-there has been some sexual energy between the two leads. Not so here, my friends! She is played so cold that it is almost under-acted. Her facial expressions (or lack of) had me quite scared. It was this intense coldness that led me to think her eventual break with sanity would be seen as absurd. Kurosawa countered this by adding a plot thread that Shakespeare missed. Macbeth was without an heir and thus the paranoia sets in. Kurosawa added a possible heir in Washizu's wife. However, when she gives birth to a stillborn baby both of them fly off the handle.

This intensely emotional film is capped off with one of the more brilliant death scenes ever put to celluloid.

There is no higher recommendation from me. See this movie. It's got Shakespearean Samurais for God's sake!

I'll leave you with the Old Ghost Woman's advice to Washizu:

If you tread the path of demons...tread it in the most cruel, most hideous manner.

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