Based on Shakespeare’s epic King Lear, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran follows the despair and agony of a Japanese emperor traumatised by the wars and bloodshed resulting from his favouritism towards one of his three sons, as well as from his own pride. While Lear was betrayed by his cold-hearted daughters, Lord Hidetoro is driven into madness when his sons turn on each other in a dog-eat-dog manner. Kurosawa’s manages to glorify this agony of the old man, whose history of conquest and bloodshed comes to haunt him and divide his once strong empire.
The sons wage war on each other in epic battle scenes, which Kurosawa uses to emphasise the carnage of treason, plotting, and conquest. Kurosawa’s brilliant management of thousands of extras playing soldiers and horsemen elevates Ran to higher ranks of the category of the best war films ever made. To see an army stretched for miles from the point of view of its rivals is really interesting. The battle scenes were well crafted, with the different armies of contrasting colours representing their different allegiances. To see scores of infantry men in yellow samurai uniforms smashing a fortress occupied by men in red wardrobes is a visual spectacle.
The bloody battles between the sons are reflected on the psyche of the father who takes to the desert after being banished. As the crack in his empire is widened, his appearance and physical ability diminishes. As he survives one tragedy after another, the carnage of the former leader widens, as his consciousness is aware of the meaningless decisions he had taken to presumably preserve his kingdom, overcoming his ego, which has already cost him and his people a lot.
This review was written for the Cairo International Film Festival Critics Week