1985 – Japan
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Words: C. Abbott
Director Akira Kurosawa was 75 when production on this film ended. He at this point was already renowned as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century with a career spanning decades of films that are profound and inspirational to audiences and others within the industry. If this isn’t impressive enough, Ran is one of his most ambitious and visually incredible projects that the 4K restoration brings out for a new generation, proving his work to be timeless. This was his last true epic, taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s King Lear and led it to become Japan’s most expensive film at the time.
This isn’t the first time Kurosawa took inspiration from the work of Shakespeare, 1957s Throne of Blood is a reworking of Macbeth as The Bad Sleep Well was for Hamlet. This led to filmmakers such as Spielberg calling Kurosawa “the pictorial Shakespeare of time” and this is by no means an overstatement. Kurosawa was a master of cinema, utilising every facet of the art.
Aesthetically this is a breath-taking experience; a standout moment is the siege on the castle which manages being poetic rather than gratuitous. The use of colours, movement and staging within the frame here is astounding and the chance to see this displayed on the big screen is one not to miss. Everything that needs to be said is displayed visually rather than verbally, this is true cinema and something modern filmmaking has lost.
It may appear to be intimidating to dive into; a nearly three hour Japanese film based on Shakespeare is something that may turn people away instantly. Admittedly you have to go into this with the correct mind-set, but the experience of this film is essential. Every frame is beautiful, every moment is masterful and every second is unforgettable. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Akira Kurosawa, treat yourself and begin with this film.