Throne of Blood

Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1957, 110 minutes

Kurosawa's Throne of Blood is a prime example of cinematic cross-cultural pollination. He brings together the Oriental and the Occidental magnificently. On this occasion, it is the West which provides the content and the East the form.

Throne of Blood is in fact Macbeth, which Kurosawa had long wanted to do a movie of, transplanted to a feudal Japanese setting. Two samurai, having just suppressed a rebellion for their daimyo, meet a mystery woman. She prophesies that one of them, Taketoki Washize (Toshiro Mifune, star of many of Kurosawa's finest films) will soon become daimyo. You know the rest...

The familiar story is rendered in a form inspired by Noh theatre. Long takes and minimal camera movement often predominate. In this way Throne of Blood is more conventionally Japanese than many other Kurosawa films, famous for their Westen style fluid camera movement and fast paced editing. So Throne of Blood is Western content for the Japanese and Japanese form for the Westerner (sort of the inverse of Seven Samurai). Not only is Throne of Blood a great movie, it is also an ideal route into more demanding (for the Westerner) Japanese cinema. You know the story, so concentrate on its telling. Savour the sheer power of the direction and the acting. Then maybe check out some Ozu or Mizoguchi, more 'Japanese' directors, or Kurosawa's own Ran (1985) - his epic adaptation of King Lear to a feudal Japanese setting.

Review by Keith Brown
Taken from EUFS Programme 1995-96