25 May 2002 | OttoVonB
Shakespeare meets Kurosowa (round 1)
The Scottish Play gets a very Oriental makeover in this combination of samurai film and Noh theater from master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. As a fan of both AK and Shakespeare I owed it to myself to give this a go, particularly as this play has drawn many gifted filmmakers over the years, always to interesting results.
If you know Kurosawa's Seven Samurai or Yojombo, your expectations going into Throne of Blood will probably let you down at first. The energy and visual flair are there, but expressed very differently: a suffocating formality and simmering rage replaces the vitality and dynamism of those other films. Lost in a thick, perpetual fog, Kurosawa's characters stumble around like broken puppets, heavily made up in Noh theater makeup that is at first hard to adjust to. it creates a useful distance, and underlines the power of the cruel hand of Fate, moving its victims across an apocalyptic landscape to a shockingly violent conclusion, one you would do well not to preview online before viewing the film.
Of his three adaptations - Ran being a masterful retelling of King Lear and The Bad Sleep Well using elements of Hamlet - this is the least accessible, but also the most visionary and unique. Oddly enough, it has similarities to Orson Welles' earlier adaptation made half a world away. Both films focus on tribal symbolism, are doused in fog and could never conceivably have had the same impact in color.
If you're interested in either Japanese cinema or Shakespeare, this should definitely be near the top of your list. As an entry-point to Kurosawa's catalog, you'd probably be better off with some less weighty fare.