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Kumonosu J (Throne of Blood) (Macbeth) Reviews

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TheDudeLebowski65
TheDudeLebowski65

Super Reviewer

June 3, 2014
Akira Kuroswa crafts yet again another stunning, bold; epic that is Throne of Blood. Brilliantly acted and directed, the film features an intense atmosphere that elevates the story and is a stunning picture from start to finish. I really enjoy Kurosawa's Samurai films, and he brought something to the genre that made his work truly standout. Seven Samurai was his masterpiece, but Throne of Blood continues the tradition of telling a very good story set during the time of the Samurai. With tense atmosphere to really elevate the plot, Throne of Blood delivers a stunning film experience that captivates you from start to finish. Akira Kurosawa's always managed to tell sweeping stories with his films, and in doing so, he was able to make several highly entertaining and memorable pictures. The tone of the film is dark, and like Seven Samurai before it, unfolds steadily to really grab your attention with strong visuals and breathtaking set pieces. Overall this is a beautiful piece of cinema that wonderfully shot, and Kurosawa's always knew how to craft picture that used breathtaking cinematography to really elevate the film in a way that it needed to be. In the case of this film, the cinematography helps set the tone, atmosphere that is needed to tell such a story, and it makes for a truly engrossing and highly memorable picture that is sure to appeal to genre fans looking for bold, atmospheric and ultimately epic films that tell simple, yet good stories to really grab your attention. Thrones of Blood is yet another finely crafted epic from a director who has mastered the genre, and after this film, I am surprised that Kurosawa has always kept making consistent films. With that being said, he's one of the few filmmakers who has delivered time after time, and he never disappointed. Throne of Blood is a stunning film that is a must see.
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

April 21, 2011
Akira Kurosawa sure leaves no stone unturned when it comes to delivering a product that is an adaptation of a literary work of William Shakespeare. And of course, one wouldn't expect anything less from a prolific director like Kurosawa...he would be the last filmmaker on earth to make the Bard turn in his grave!

"Throne of Blood" is Kurosawa's rendition of "The Tragedy of Macbeth". Those familiar with the story of Macbeth would know how it plays out. Despite the predictability of the story (only because the story is known to many and there have been various adaptations of the play over the years), Kurosawa crafts a powerful and gripping drama, transposing the plot of Macbeth to feudal Japan.

The film tells the story of a Samurai Commander, Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), a valiant warrior working under Lord Tzuzuki. Triggered by an ominous prediction by an 'evil spirit', and further fuelled by the poisoning of his mind by his wife, Lady Asaji, Washizu turns greedy and his lust for power makes him commit regicide. The rest of the film details the bitter aftermath of his actions.

Akira Kurosawa supposedly takes significant liberties with the original plot but the differences are insignificant, as the focus lies on the heinous acts committed by the central character, abetted by his wife, and the eventual catastrophe that lies in store for the both of them. There is a lot of ironical symbolism going on in the film. So while the evil spirit (akin to the three witches in Macbeth) makes prophecies about what the future holds for Washizu, there is that long yet outstanding sequence in which Washizu and Commander Miki are trying to find their way to the castle through the dense fog...they cannot really "see ahead". At one point, they are shown riding into the fog, into the screen and away from the viewer, they soon come back riding to the same point, visible again on the screen, showing how uncertain they are of their direction. The fog then probably represents the inherent inability of a human being to see "what lies ahead"!

There is a constant sense of doom and despair in the latter part of the film, just like in Kurosawa's adaptation of another tragedy of Shakespeare ('King Lear'), the magnificent "Ran". Kurosawa's use of some Japanese chants in the beginning and the end of the film add an eerie touch to the narrative. Especially the beginning which shows the remains of what used to be Cobweb Castle. "Throne of Blood" also has one of the best, masterfully filmed climaxes in the history of Kurosawa films...one, during which you are likely to skip a beat!

The camerawork is astounding as usual...which is not entirely a surprise, for this is, after all, a Kurosawa film! I can't help but mention here that Kurosawa would've excelled in making a horror film as well, and it shows with the manifestation of his vivid imagination of a radiating ghostly being spinning a yarn on a wheel deep in the dark woods....and its reappearance later amidst some excellent sound effects..these scenes are spine-chilling to say the least!


There are some shortcomings though, which albeit minor, must be highlighted. Although the main focus of the film is the character of Washizu, some other very important characters are hardly developed or get almost no screen time! Best examples are the characters of Miki (Minoru Chiaki) and Noriyasu (Takashi Shimura). Takashi Shimura is one of the finest talents from the Kurosawa camp, yet he gets about five minutes of screen time in this! Ditto for Minoru Chiaki (who played the memorable role of Heihachi in "Seven Samurai"), who I think gets about five minutes more than Shimura!

As for Lady Asaji, the scheming wife of Washizu, played by Isuzu Yamada; this character makes quite an impression, but one wonders why Kurosawa had to get such inconsistent and hence, unnatural acting done from her. For example, when she is doing some of her brainwashing acts on Washizu, she appears deadpan, stares at the wall and acts almost ghost-like with hardly any expression and talks without any tone modulation. But then again in other scenes, particularly during a feast and in a later, very important scene she seems to go overboard with animated emotions! She pulls both these extreme acts really well, but then the inconsistency in mannerisms of the character renders the character unnatural! Perhaps she is supposed to be another 'evil spirit' personified and hence such a representation?! Maybe....

But the man who rules the film in the acting department has to be the great Toshiro Mifune, whose fantabulous performance leaves you breathless and gasping for more! His amazing display of a range of emotions and the sheer energy he puts into his performance is applause-worthy.


All said, "Throne of Blood" is a terrific film, and one of Kurosawa's greatest works. But it is very short by Kurosawa standards with a running time of about 105 minutes. The film itself is captivating and reaches its end before you know it. However,...and I rarely say this, the film should've been longer by at least another half hour; to focus more on the aforementioned important characters that drive the story.....or simply for giving Takashi Shimura some more screen time!
bbcfloridabound
bbcfloridabound

Super Reviewer

March 11, 2013
From the Criterion Collection Spine Number 190.


Throne of Blood is a masterpiece by one of the world's greatest film makers at the height of his powers.

Only Kurosawa could take the essence of Shakespearian stage drama and incorporate it into the medium of film as a dynamic tour de force. Yet at the same time he remains faithful to elements of Noh (a stagy traditional Japanese play-form in which design and movement are minimalized). A seeming contradiction, dynamism and static-ness yet Kurosawa masters both in the same medium. As usual; acting, writing, cinematography, sound, direction and production are all pitch perfect.

In this second Shakespearian based film by Kurosawa, focus is on the interplay of fate, free will and the fine thread the human psyche uses to weave the two together. On a more simpler level it is a man living and dying by the sword. In short what goes around comes around. What comes around for Toshiro Mifune as he gets his just deserts is a scene with straight as an arrow, perfect direction by Kurosawa leading to quite a pointed culminatin of events (pun intended...see the movie you'll understand).

Bonus features include excellent linear notes as well as the superb commentary of Donald Richie. Few people are more knowledgeable about film and Japanese film then he. The commentary is almost as interesting as the movie itself.

As usual Criterion presents its film in pristine condition. Some may complain that Criterion is too pricey but with them you get the best cinema has to offer. You cannot go wrong. One Kurosawa masterpiece packs more poignancy, punch and philosophy then 10 lesser films thus you get 10 times the movie at 5 times the price, really quite a deal if you look at it that way, 3-8-13
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

August 6, 2006
Throne of Blood is basically William Shakespeare's Macbeth, only set in Feudal Japan. The setting is quite fitting given the subject matter, and in the hands of a master like Akira Kurosawa, you know the results will be great.

And great they are. I'm familair with the source material (I read it way back in high school), but even though I don't have it committed to memory, I know enough to be able to say that, despite taking some liberties with the material, Kurosawa did a great job of getting the general point across. So, while it succeeds as an adaptation, it really works best as just an epic character study about power, control, paranoia, ambition, and guilt.

The costumes, sets, and period details are all top notch and brimming with accuracy. The cinematography is quite gorgeous, and I love the repeated shots of fog. The only thing that really sorte of bugged me (and even then only from time to time was the music. It's period appropriate, but it sometiems comes in very jarringly, and isn't always easy on the ear.

As for the acting, I probably don't need to say much. Mifune is perfect as always, and his work only solidifies the fact that he was and still is the greatest Japanese actor of all time. Isuzu Yamads is great as the Lady Macbeth counterpart, and whoever played the forest spirit is effectively creepy and forboding.

There's a great sense of style and mood here, and the battles are quite thrilling (both the fighting kind and the emotional/mental). The end sequence is quite brilliant, as we see Mifune's Washizu give a daring and intense final stand against an approaching group of soldiers.

All in all, this is excellent stuff. Then again, Kurosawa almost always delivered, so everything I just wrote pretty much goes without saying. Whether you dig Shakespeare or not, give this film a go. It's awesome.
Keiko A. --Samurai--
Keiko A. --Samurai--

Super Reviewer

July 18, 2011
Akira Kurosawa film adaptations of a Shakespeare play? And without a doubt the best thing ever done on Macbeth easy. Just add my country --Japan-- and you have another hit.

The amazing Toshirō Mifune is of course in this epic by Kurosawa. Nicely done music and settings....I loved the landscapes and production aspects. Beautiful costumes and camera work and direction.

Oh hell it's my second favourite Kurosawa and one of my top 20 you go figure.
Wildaly M

Super Reviewer

July 11, 2011
Watching this Japanese version was strange for me and I wasn't exactly sure what to think of it as I watched. Some parts were different but great (the cultural aspects of Japan embedded in what is supposed to be English play) while others just plain weird (i.e. the witches being replaced by some sort of eerie ghost spirit). Lady Macbeth was very creepy. Slowly the film gets better and towards the end it definitely had my attention. Being a definitely interesting re-working of Shakespeare's Macbeth, this was worth the watch.
AJ V

Super Reviewer

January 6, 2011
Having already seen Macbeth in more traditional forms, I could see where the Shakespeare tale fit into this movie, and I wasn't very surprised by anything that happened. The style is pretty good, though, and the actors are good too, but for some reason I wasn't all that impressed by this version of Macbeth. Not that it isn't good, I just think it could have been better.
sanjurosamurai
sanjurosamurai

Super Reviewer

March 20, 2007
akira kurosawa's version of shakespears macbeth. this is the film i chose to watch on kurosawa's centennial birthday, and this most recent viewing was the best. part ghost story, part betrayal story, mifune plays a rare role as a villian and does a magnificent job as always bringing out the stregth and passion of his character. there were some chilling shots in the film, especially because of kurosawa's phenomenal use of the fog and forest landscapes, and the story was told well. a story about a woman with a poisonous tongue confusing her loyal husband into betrayal and treason against his lord in fuedal japan. the wife plays a character riddled with evil. a wonderful tale about how ambition misdirected leads to a doomed path.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

November 25, 2009
This is nothing short of genius. Kurosawa does Shakespeare better than anyone else ever has. The last scene is just awesome cinema!
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

May 2, 2007
Akira Kurosawa's version of Shakespeare's MacBeth is stunning in my opinion. The decision to move the story from Elizabethan England to the samurai culture of feudal Japan was a stroke of genius.The story -- for those of you living under a rock for the last 400 years, of a man's craving for power and position (gently shoved along by his wife) and the paranoia that develops when that power is obtained -- translated perfectly. Toshiro Mifune as Washizu is always great to watch, but my vote for best performance here goes to Isuzu Yamada in the Lady MabBeth role, known here as Lady Washizu. She's calculating and evil when she is pushing her husband to greater political heights, and both scary and sympathetic after she has mentally gone off the deep end. Like Kurosawa's film Ran, this is done in a theatrical Noh style, which gives it fairy-tale/nightmare quality. I've always loved what Kurosawa does with rainstorms, and the storm in the woods is powerful and spooky and wonderful. The film is slow-moving at times, but I feel that adds to the film rather than takes away from it. The first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes alone are worth the price of admission. An amazing achievement for all involved.
flixsterman
flixsterman

Super Reviewer

January 6, 2009
Kurosawa's compelling "samurai" adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. This isn't just a typical retelling of the story or a film version of the stage play, this is much more of a character study with surprising depth and motivation. An epic film, in every sense of the word.
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2009
Directors don't come much better than Kurosawa, writers don't come much better than Shakespeare, and movies don't come much better than this excellent combination of the two. Add Mifune's acting, plus a good supporting cast (including a really good performance by Isuzu Yamada), and you have a top-quality, classic film. In retelling the story of "Macbeth" with characters from medieval Japan, Kurosawa does honor to the original and creates a fine achievement in its own right.

Much of the time, when Shakespeare plots are transferred to different settings, what results is only a shadow of the original, because too many directors have only a limited grasp of what Shakespeare's deep masterpieces are all about. That is not at all the case here - Kurosawa shows a great appreciation for the themes and potential of the Macbeth story, and adds plenty of masterful touches of his own, creating a distinctive, memorable atmosphere and characters that come to life in their own right in addition to serving as worthy parallels to the Macbeth characters. There are many fine details that enhance both the medieval Japanese setting and also the important themes of the story itself.

Whether you like Shakespeare, Kurosawa, or both, "Throne of Blood" is an excellent movie that should not disappoint.
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

March 23, 2008
kurosawa's macbeth has just the right atmosphere and mood. mifune is a bit hyperdramatic in the finale but his wife is dead creepy
DragonEyeMorrison
DragonEyeMorrison

Super Reviewer

January 7, 2008
Can't say i like it as much as other films by the master, gets too teatrical for me at times, but you seriously can't go wrong with the great atmosphere Kurosawa creates here. That witch is scary.
garyX
garyX

Super Reviewer

March 1, 2007
Akira Kurosawa's eye for wonderful visuals comes to the fore once again in this stunning adaptation of Macbeth, which lends itself toa relocation to feudal Japan perfectly. I particularly liked the way he merged some wonderfully atmospheric camera techniques with it's still highly theatrical feel. Toshiro Mifune gives an incredibly intense performance as the general destroyed by his ambition, the subdued scenes between he and his manipulative wife are particularly memorable. And what an ending. Unfortunately I can't comment on the dialogue, as this was yet another example of a DVD company's insistence on hiring a translator who can't actually speak English. "The hand of the spider bush is moving to the city" indeed...
Michael G

Super Reviewer

October 25, 2006
The Japanese Macbeth. Good, but I always watch it if I need to fall asleep. The subtitles and pauses in dialogue knock me out every time.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2006
Kurosawa meets Shakespeare. Too amazing to even contemplate? Well simply sit back and experience the best adaptation of the great writers work. Moving from Scotland to Japan, with an intense performance from Mifune. An ending most films would kill for. Very atmospheric and at times chilling.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

April 26, 2007
Not as good as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, or Yojimbo, the only other Kurosawa pictures I've seen so far. Pretty slow moving and not as creepy as I think it was intended to be. There are some good effects for the old ghost/evil spirit, which gives Washizu (Mifune) and Miki (Kubo) the prophesy. All the important plot points of Shakespeare's drama are adapted to Medieval Japan. There is a lot of riding horses in circles in the woods and Mifune pacing anxiously and yelling his lines. Lady Washizu (Yamada) is cunning in manipulating her husband to take more power, but according to Japanese feminine ideals is much more demure than I would expect from a Lady Macbeth. There are many beautiful desolate compositions in the film and memorable visuals such as the hundreds of arrows surrounding Washizu at the end, but the performances are a bit too heavy-handed and clumsy this time around. Even so, it is an essential variation on the theme.
Chris B

Super Reviewer

June 9, 2011
Throne of Blood is another masterful work from the legendary duo of director Akira Kurosawa and his prominent leading man Toshiro Mifune in the role of the primary protagonist Taketoki Washizu, a commander who has a life-defining encounter with an evil spirit in the woods. Along with his childhood friend Yoshaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki) the two are given a disturbing but advantageous fortune of their coming glory and rise through the ranks. Unfortunately one of the predictions is that Miki's son will one day rule the legendary Spider Web Castle that Washizu will soon inherit first, planting suspicion and paranoia in his mind. The two eventually find their way out of the haunted Spider's Web Forrest and it's many illusions and upon meeting with their lord, Lord Tsuzuki are given the first of their promotions according to the prophecy. From then onwards the two fulfill their destinies of climbing the ranks and with Washizu's wife Asaji, played unemotionally and menacing by Isuzu Yamada, Washizu kills his lord and his wife plants the spear used on one of another general's guards and thus sets General Noriyasu (Takashi Shimura, another Kurosawa regular) to take the fall for his deed. Thus he is now Lord and shortly after inherits Spider Web Castle from Miki and eventually through his wife's bidding and his own heart's ambitions he has his friend killed and attempts to have his son killed as well to prevent the prophecy coming true, but fails and the son joins with the wronged General Noriyasu and others wronged by Washizu to overthrow him and avenge their lost loved ones. Upon meeting the evil spirit again Washizu who has been driven nearly completely out of his mind, is told that he will only fall if the very trees of Spider's Web Forest rise up to overthrow him and with this he is lulled into a false sense of invincibility and invulnerability. He rallies his men inside the castle to battle but as one of the guards warns of the trees rising up against them, everyone falls into panic, none more than Washizu. With the omen made known to all the men beforehand with it's coming true they betray the lord and shoot him down with hundred of arrows and he final succumbs to the numerous injuries before he can draw his sword. It's made known briefly after that the invading army used branches and leaves to hide in and under and make it appear within the mist that the very trees were indeed rising up against Lord Washizu.
The film itself is of course an adaptation of Macbeth but to simply leave it at that would be a grave injustice as Kurosawa seamlessly weaves an intricate story within Japan and it's history while still adhering to the story arc and characterization of the original work. The film exudes atmosphere and the misty and gloom-filled setting lends great depth to the mood of the film and it's story and one in which perfectly inhabits it's characters and their story of bloodlust and tragedy. Toshiro Mifune as usual gives a powerfully bombastic and energetic performance in the lead role and really adds power to the character and story. The themes are all there but also so distinctly Japanese and original that it really is it's own work and embodiment of Kurosawa's vision on film. What a truly great cinematic work that is a wonderful to view and a stunning work of Japanese cinema from the legend Akira Kurosawa. This certainly ranks among the legendary director's greatest masterpieces and that is among some of the very best in Japanese cinema!
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