Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Here's a fun one. Ran ("Chaos" in Japanese) was the final samurai epic of the undisputed master of samurai epics, Akira Kurosawa. As fortune would have it, it's also one of his great masterpieces, easily one of the best films ever made.

Ahhh, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Akira Kurosawa is one of those names which comes up whenever "greatest directors ever" are being talked about. Director of, among others, The Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Yojimbo, his formidable canon of work stands out even amongst the highest-end directs you could care to name. And towards the end of his life, at age 75, he created his 1985 opus. A treatise on the chaos, brutality and nihilism of warfare, it adapts the tale of King Lear into a story of warring states tearing a kingdom apart. To say anymore would be spoiling the film for one half of you and patronising the other half for not knowing how King Lear ends.

What is particularly striking is the way the battle scenes are shot; they watch down from up high, frequently lingering only on piles of corpses in the mud or blood-splattered scenery, giving the impression of a deity gazing down upon the carnage. Despite striking scenery and wonderful use of colour, the shots are never beautiful, only sombre, stark and tragic. The characters are similar; a collection of manipulators, madmen and power-hungry warlords, all watching the world around them fall apart beneath Machiavellian schemes, the horror of warfare and the lack of sentimentality from the storytellers. It's brutality is, if not enjoyable, then certainly refreshing; this is a film which sticks to it's nihilistic story.

The visual and narrative sumptuousness of this film could only be achieved through the acquisition of years of expertise which Kurosawa possessed, and make it a must-see.

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