Friday, February 17, 2012

Throne of Blood - Movie Review

This is originally a Japanese film 'Kumonosu-jo' directed by Akira Kurosawa, an adaptation of Macbeth. The movie begins with the Lord of the region waiting in the castle, listening to reports about an enemy attack. The mood is sombre as the enemy is gaining upper hand but miraculously his two generals Miki and Washizu turn it around, chase the enemy away and win the battle. They return to the Lord from their posts amidst thick fog in which they lose their way many times. While returning they run into a spirit in the forest that foretells their future - that Miki will be leader of Fort One and Washizu the commander of North Gate. But it does not end its forecast there and predicts that Washizu will become the Lord and Miki's son as well.

The two warriors get their promotions exactly as predicted by the spirit. Washizu's wife is in a hurry that her husband be Lord and provokes her husband to kill the Lord when he visits the North Gate on a hunting trip. Washizu and his men chase the Lord's son and another faithful, but they escape. At the castle Miki tells Washizu to become the next leader and also adopt his son, since Washizu has no son anyway, as the spirit had forecast. It is then that Washizu's wife tells him that she is pregnant and complicates things. Miki does not come to the banquet offered by Washizu in celebration of his becoming the Lord. Instead Miki's head is brought there His son escapes and joins the enemy along with the young master and the other general.

Washizu sees the forest spirit sitting in his banquet and in his fear blurts out the truth of having killed the Lord. His wife covers it up to the other officials at the banquet but the damage is done. The pregnant wife loses the child and goes crazy trying to wash the imaginary blood off her hand. Washizu's castle is under siege by the enemy. When he meets the forest spirit again, it tells him that he will not lose until the spider web jungle moves Thinking this to be impossible Washizu is convinced of his victory and relates the story to his forces to make them believe in their invincibility. But then the forest actually moves as the enemy uses the branches as cover and moves closer to the castle which has a difficult approach. Washizu's own army kills him for his betrayal of his Lord.

This is easily the best adaptation of Macbeth I have seen. It is told so lucidly and clearly without making any fancy departures from the original - something which filmmakers tend to make when they adapt stories. I can't remember the original story better than by seeing this film. As always Akira Kurosawa leaves great impact on the viewer with superbly conceived images, tight screenplay and minimal dialogue. Washizu (who is played by Toshiro Mifune and who appears in most Kurosawa movies) plays Macbeth, a bit too loudly for my liking, but he is fantastic as the samurai general. His posture and demeanour is aggressive, alert and angry. Apparently the castle scenes were shot on Mt. Fuji where there is a great amount of fog. Akira Kurosawa excels in the action scenes with the horses and the last scene where the soldiers mutiny against Washizu and shoot arrows at him gains even more significance when we realise that they used real arrows for that scene. You cannot forget some of the scenes ever. Frankly I'd never fully remember Macbeth even after so many readings and viewings but now, I think its sealed.

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