Throne of Blood

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Is it possible to make a great Shakespeare film without using a word of the original text? Throne of Blood proves that it is. Kurosawa’s powerful, haunting adaptation of Macbeth sets the action in a mythic, fog-bound landscape, harsh with the cries of carrion birds, where samurai warlord Washizu murders his way to power urge on by his coldly manipulative wife. Kurosawa always held the Noh theatre tradition in high regard, and here he draws strongly on Noh conventions of acting and staging to lend his story an eerie mood of ritual that accentuates its violence and sense of ineluctable doom. As Wazhizu, Toshiro Mifune shows us a man desperately trying to surmount his own fate, enmeshing himself deeper the more he struggles, and the scene of his protracted death agony has become a classic cinematic icon. But he’s matched by Isuzu Yamada as his wife. Hers is a chilling performance of controlled, calculating malevolenceocloser to Iago than to the conventional view of Lady Macbethomaking her one of Kurosawa’s very few female villains.
Japan, 1957. English subtitles. Black and white. 110 mins.

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