Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of the Shakespeare’s King Lear, Ran is an epic tale of tragedy, remorse and regret grounded in the dramatic lives of medieval Japanese nobility. It explores the very humane idea of a character flaw often leading to colossal, unintended and tragic consequences.

The magnum opus revolves around a senile Japanese warlord Hidetori Ichimonji, who owing to his senescence, is rapidly losing the strength and ferocity he has earned through years of relentless savagery and ruthless slaughter. Knowing that he is well past his prime and that his appetite for horrors has been corrupted by his old age amidst his blunting authority over the Ichimonji clan, he, in an attempt to restore peace to his clan, divides his fiefdom among his three sons, hoping them to establish a sort of a triumvirate with the eldest son having a slight edge. His two elder sons, Taro and Jiro, accept the proposal with rapturous glee at their fat inheritances, but his youngest son Saburo seems bemused and questions the wits of the patriarch for taking this untimely decision. Though arrantly annoyed by his son’s audacious defiance, he tries to convince him using age-old metaphors on obedience and honour, only to find him inconsolable. Affronted at his son’s impertinence, he reluctantly banishes him and enthrones the two elder sons.  But as the warlord begins his retirement, he quickly realizes that his two eldest sons are selfish and have no intention of keeping their elaborate promises of keeping to themselves.

Made on a budget north of 11 million Yen, it was the most expensive Japanese movie of its time. The movie’s ambition can be seen through the brilliantly captured scenes, especially the war scene that depicts fate casting the final blow to the ruthless reign of the warlord. The brutality and the bloodshed depicted in those scenes stands unmatched till now, speaking volumes of the uncompromising character the film maker has shown into the production of this film.

Ran portrays the poetic justice in such an abominable, dastardly fashion that one can’t help but sympathize with the narcissistic warlord, who spent his life arrogating and annihilating innocent souls, sending home the universal message of Karma and life coming round in full circle. Hidetori’s repentance at passing on his insatiable greed and bloodlust on to his sons gives the audience a sense of dolorous closure, painted effortlessly in final minutes of the films.

The grim and often plaintive score sets a mood that not only supports its melancholic backdrop, but also immensely adds to its poignant beauty and emotional depth. The final scene featuring the blind boy, in his haplessness and solitude, doesn’t feature an utterance of even a single syllable but the playback of the mystical flute makes the scene haunting  and worth a thousand words. Much has been left unsaid in this 162-minute drama, often relying on metaphors and juxtaposition of imagery, making it a classic example of Kurosawa’s brilliance and perhaps a consummation of his apotheosis.

  • Amol (B.A Programme, 2nd Year)

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