Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Movie Review: "Throne of Blood" (1957)

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Year: 1957
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa offers up his adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" with "Throne of Blood" (1957). Much like its source material, "Throne of Blood" (1957) explores the destructive nature of the pursuit of power for the sake of power. It shows how the desire to hold on to one's position of authority and all the comforts it provides makes a person paranoid and leads them to commit atrocious acts of violence against their enemies and even their friends. Taketoki Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) begins the story as a kindhearted man and a fierce warrior who is loyal to his Lordship. When he and his friend Miki (Akira Kubo) get lost in the forest one day, they run into a spirit (Chieko Naniwa), who predicts that Washizu will become lord of the North Castle and will eventually usurp his master to become Lord of the Forest Castle. Furthermore, the spirit claims that Miki will be promoted to defender of the First Fort and that one day, his son will replace Washizu as Lord of the Forest Castle. It is this prophecy that turns Washizu from a once-just person into a power-hungry monster...well, that, and the fact that his wife Lady Asaji (Isuzu Yamada) is always planting seeds of doubt in his mind.
Movie still from "Throne of Blood" featuring the Old Ghost Woman, played by Chieko Naniwa.
Movie still from "Throne of Blood" featuring the Old Ghost Woman, played by Chieko Naniwa. (Image Source)
Akira Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood" (1957) is a visual near-masterpiece. Each and every visible second in this film adds to its moodiness, its intrigue, and its very successful storytelling. Kurosawa thrives when he plays with light and shadow, and here, he continues to make one hell of a spectacular scene after another. There are many different moments we could single out, but one in particular, when Lady Washizu walks into a dark closet to retrieve a canister of wine, is especially striking. The story is very compelling, albeit a bit slow-burning. We watched in anticipation to see if the spirit's prophecy would come true and shook our heads every single time Washizu gets manipulated into doing something that sealed his own demise. The ending is both intense and exciting. We were completely pulled into the story's climax, which kept us enthralled right down to the last arrow. The costumes are grand and incredibly intricate, and they look amazing when in the throes of the many battles that are fought. We absolutely loved the crescent moon on the helmet of the Great Lord of the Forest Castle. Kurosawa and his costume and set designers do a magnificent job of capturing the look of feudal Japan. The massive fortresses, the foggy forests, the towering temples, and the grand banquet halls look like they came out of a documentary rather than a feature film.
Toshirô Mifune and Akira Kubo charge into battle on horses in Akira Kurosawa's 1957 film "Throne of Blood."
Toshirô Mifune and Akira Kubo charge into battle on horses in Akira Kurosawa's 1957 film "Throne of Blood." (Image Source)
We haven't seen many (if any) other versions of "Macbeth," but watching "Throne of Blood" (1957) makes us want to seek out other filmmakers' interpretation of the story to see if they managed to make them as compelling as Kurosawa's incarnation.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.1/10
RT Rating: 98%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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1 comment:

  1. Hello. The first other adaptation one that would come to mind is Orson Welles'. It is visually beautiful and extremely well acted.
    One thing to note is that Orson originally played the main character with a Scottish accent but the studio felt it wasn't working so they made him redub all his dialogues with his normal accent. The original version finally came out a few years ago and I for one liked the Scottish accent.

    Totally different topic: yours are the only movie reviews I read and trust. Thank you.