Monday, August 08, 2005

"Throne of Blood" by Akira Kurosawa

"Throne of Blood" is Kurosawa's samurai-and-kabuki-theater adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth". In "Macbeth", there are two (among many others) memorable dramatic moments: 1) Lady Macbeth trying to wash the invisible blood off her hands, and 2) the attacking trees. I had not seen "Throne of Blood" for a long time before watching it on DVD last week, and those two well-known scenes still took my breath away. They were so marvelously staged and acted that just the anticipation of those moments gave me the goose bumps.

Anyone familiar with "Throne of Blood" is unlikely to forget the final scene in which the treacherous warlord, played by Toshiro Mifune, dies in a rain of arrows fired by the mutinous soldiers. There is a lot of speculation about how Kurosawa shot the scene with dozens of arrows fired right at Mifune and more than a few actually hitting his body -- it's got to be movie trickery, but how the heck did he do it? And how on earth did he shoot the gory one that pierced through Mifune's neck? Well, the capability of DVD to freeze individual frames answers part of the question. I won't spill the beans here; you'll have to see it for yourself.

As with all of Kurosawa's movies, one is constantly awed by how perfectly framed every single shot is. With mathematical precision, he lined up the soldiers, the farmers, and even the candlesticks on the floor to create an impression of "visual depth". The way he had his actors slowly twist their necks and roll their eyes to signify the direction of the drama is simply brilliant.

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