25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
One of cinema's all time greatest films,
This review is from: Ran [DVD] (DVD)
Akira Kurasawa is a monolithic figure in world cinema and this film is in my view his very best work. The story, as is well known, is simply a reworking of Shakespeare's King Lear. The Great Lord decides to abdicate and divide his empire between his three sons, one of whom says this is madness as greed will destroy the family and is promptly exiled. Kurasawa brilliantly captures the melodrama at the centre of Shakespeare's play and lays it on thick. There is no subtly to the acting or the plot, as this is not faithful to the material, but the spirit is well realised.
It is the quite simply breathtaking cinematography that really makes this stand out. From shots of mounted samurai on the green and otherworldly slopes of mount Fuji to the beautiful castle interiors Kurasawa paints a wonderful picture. The colours are vibrant and the shot composition is extremely clever. I am personally most impressed by the first lavish battle scene which conveys the horror of war and its brutality so vividly with blood running from the castle walls and storms of arrows. This however, is no simple battle as you would find in a hollywood film. Eerie music plays over the top and troops are portrayed running backwards and forwards in such a way as to give the impression of the noise and activity of the battle without actually showing it.
Ran is also a wonderful advert for the extreme folly of war. King Lear is quite bleak, but Kurasawa's imagining of this element is heart wrenching. The way that the film reaches its conclusion and each character is killed off is deeply moving, and perhaps the final shot of the one character who survives is the worst of all.
If you are looking for a clever innovative plot then this is not the sort of film to look out for. However if you wish to see a master film maker at the very peak of his powers, with full mastery of his actors, his shots and his colour palette then check out Ran. It is a must see film as a vision of how cinema can be at its very best. Suffer thorough the subtitles if you don't normally like them and enjoy a true work of genius.