Throne of Blood VHS
Akira Kurosawa's savage, free-flowing adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth plunges viewers into an eerie, fog-shrouded world of madness and obsession. International star Toshiro Mifune gives one of his finest performances as the proud warrior who is destroyed by his wife's murderous greed and his self-consuming ambition. Set in medieval Japan during a period of feudal conflict, Kurosawa's brilliantly staged classic bristles with energy from its first frenzied battle to its brutal climax.
A champion of illumination and experimental shading, Kurosawa brings his unerring eye for indelible images to Shakespeare in this 1957 adaptation of Macbeth. By changing the locale from Birnam Wood to 16th-century Japan, Kurosawa makes an oddball argument for the trans-historicity of Shakespeare's narrative; and indeed, stripped to the bare mechanics of the plot, the tale of cutthroat ambition rewarded (and thwarted) feels infinitely adaptable. What's lost in the translation, of course, is the force and beauty of the language--much of the script of Throne of Blood is maddeningly repetitive or superfluous--but striking visual images (including the surreal Cobweb Forest and some extremely artful gore) replace the sublime poetry. Toshiro Mifune is theatrically intense as Washizu, the samurai fated to betray his friend and master in exchange for the prestige of nobility; he portrays the ill-fated warrior with a passion bordering on violence, and a barely concealed conviviality. Somewhat less successful is Isuzu Yamada as Washizu's scheming wife; her poise and creepy impassivity, chilling at first, soon grows tedious. Kurosawa himself is the star of the show, though, and his masterful use of black-and-white contrast-- not to mention his steady, dramatic hand with a battle scene--keeps the proceedings thrilling. A must-see for fans of Japanese cinema, as well as all you devotees of samurai weapons and armor. --Miles Bethany
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Until the arrow in the neck. Then there's this beat, this elongated pause. Mifune isn't screaming any more. His face is frozen like the proverbial deer in the headlights. His fate is truly sealed. He's dead and he knows it, even if he has not actually stopped breathing, just yet.
So climaxes Akira Kurosawa's telling of MacBeth. This is no spoiler - everybody knows he has to die. That we know his fate, even while he, himself denies it, is part of the tale's enduring power.
Kurosawa and his team have created some inspired and genuinely chilling images and sounds: consider the voice of the witch in the woods, which is not quite human-sounding and rumbles with basso profundo undertones. Or the silvery clouds of fog hugging the moist, coal-black forest floor in the film's brilliant black-and-white cinematography. Or the palpably other-worldly quality of the apparitions that drive our hero nearly to madness. The visual compositions have an eerie precision, an expressionism not generally seen outside of the old German masters of the 20's.
The acting is, indeed, highly stylized - even stilted, but so is Elizabethan English and, for that matter, the very notion of the soliloquy. We don't complain about either of those aspects of MacBeth when we see it in its original form, do we? Perhaps other reviewers here are correct in ascribing much of the film's style to the Noh theater tradition. I cannot say, since I have never seen it.
But I have seen this film, and it occupies an esteemed place in my video collection.
The endless scenes of the frightened, whinnying horses, dashing through the impenetrable fog, reined and turned again and again by the lost, frightened and confused Mifune and Chiaki. The scene is unbearable, frustrating, and makes us understand what it is to "lose one's way" in the metaphorical sense as shown by the physical reality. This is what great film does: works on many levels, and offers us an intimate visual experience of the conceptual.
Noh provided inspiration for Mifune's visual presence: Kuroswa showed Mifune a Noh mask and asked him to become that.
(Between us-you always thought that Toshiro Mifune looked like a Japanese woodcut, anyway, didn't you? Something so deeply icon-like in that face! Of course Mifune was born to become THE samurai of film...he was already a part of the Japanese Collective Unconscious!)
Lady Macbeth's performance and makeup was also inspired by Noh. The blend of physical reality (the legendary Kurosawan attention to the smallest details of set and ambience) with the presentational aspects of traditional Japanese dramaturgy creates a rich and startling tapestry from Shakespeare's familiar story.
That this Macbeth is not language, but rather, image-driven shows us Kurosawa's great faith in the value of cinema as a form of deep human communication. He's convinced me, and I humbly submit my thanks.
This DVD is up to Criterions usual standards. The picture is awesome (I watched it on a projector) with sharp details of armor pieces and foggy landscapes rendered beautiful. Especially for a movie 47 years old. Also there are two different subtitles, the new one is considered more difficult. I watched it with the new one and while some sentences seemed a little strange, there are no difficulties understanding what is going on.
Despite the heavy cinema & literary royalty of Kurosawa and Macbeth baggage combined, one can still ignore all that and just watch this as an oddball atmospheric & dark fantasy Samurai tale of fate from the 50s with iconic looking scenes & set pieces.
A cool package.
Most recent customer reviews
1) Akira Kurosawa incorporated Noh, a traditional Japanese drama, into this movie.Read more