On an analogous note, one can refer director Mitsutoshi Tanaka as the Ashutosh Gowarikar of Japan – his film is a historical period drama set in the late 1500 (the same era as Akbar) and runs for a good 2 and a half hours which is long enough as per international standards. Based on an award-winning novel Matsumoto Seicho by Yamamoto Ken'ichi, the film not an entirely factual account but the fictional screenplay is devised from many true historical details.
The film opens in 1576 when king Oda Nobunaga (Shiina Kippei) wishes to build a 5-storeyed Azuchi castle on a mountain fronting a lake that is believed to be the center of Japan. Master carpenter Okabe Mataemon's (Nishida Toshiyuki) design is approved as he is allotted the task to make the most grand and lavish castle in Japan in a span of three years. The trails and tribulations that he faces to complete the mammoth task is what the film is about.
Like the magnificent and strong structure of castle, the screenplay is constructed as much beautifully and steadily and has an emotional connect with the viewer. The production design is of high standards and some decent computer graphics are employed. Unlike any Samurai film there are no battle sequences here but scenes where the castle's central pillar is erected and another where a giant boulder is pulled towards the castle show the magnanimity of the project.
The film does resort to some formula like a supporting actor surfacing from nowhere in the climax which could have been easily avoided. The love tracks don't help much and a superhuman style flying Kung Fu fight remains both unexplained and unbelievable. Also Mataemon is nowhere in picture once the castle is completed.
Nevertheless for the compelling act of Nishida Toshiyuki, an interesting premise and director Tanaka's grand vision, Castle Under Fiery Skies is an absolutely engaging affair.
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