Applauded Japanese director Kurosawa Akira takes on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in Throne of Blood, and whilst doing so he gives his smoke machine a run for its money, provides plenty of machismo posturing and gruff yelling, and provides an engrossing film heavy on tragedy.
The film beings with two brave commanders and childhood friends Washizu (a mighty Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Akira Kubo) successfully staving off a mutinies army from invading the Spider’s Web castle.
Summoned by their Great Lord, they find themselves lost in the forest surrounding the castle where they meet (in a genuinely creepy scene) an evil spirit who prophecies’ their future, which leads to a treacherous and bloody battle to the throne, as Washizu slowly becomes mad with power, spurned on by his wife Asaji, played by Isuzu Yamada with powerful restraint and cunning ferociousness.
Kurosawa successfully adapts Shakespeare to medieval Japan, adding chilling supernatural overtones to a story wrought with betrayal.
Director of photography Asakazu Nakai’s provides eerie imagery, with characters appearing in and out of thick fog and unforgivable darkness, as Sato Masaru’s moody score heightens the cold atmosphere. The films spectacularly outlandish costumes – especially in regards to the various warrior garbs – were designed by Yoshiro Muraki.
Kuroawa’s use of silence is deafening in its emotional context, yet it is Mifune’s ripping death scene featuring a large number of (real life) arrows which will always be remembered, and would not be matched until Al Pacino’s death via vast gunfire in Scarface.
Throne of Blood is a powerful film which successfully plays tribute to the writings of Shakespeare while also creating a clear identity of its own.