Akira Kurosawa once again takes Shakespeare from The Globe to the other side of the globe in this adaptation of King Lear.
As compared to Throne of Blood, Ran is bigger in almost every way. With copious extras and expert coreography, as well as death-defying stunt work throughout the numerous huge battles. This is the culmination of a long career’s worth of technical experience and film-making clout. Ran was the most expensive Japanese film ever made at the time, and it’s obvious where the money went.
The cinematography of gathering clouds and rolling hills is almost Koyaanisqatsi-esque in its evocation of nature. The majority of the film is set outdoors, with the earthly concerns of its characters often puntuated by the indifference of the heavens. Although in spite of the sieges, cavalry charges and bloody violence, it doesn’t have quite the level of atmosphere of Kuroswa’s MacBeth adaptation.
Tatsuya Nakadai gives a magnetic performance as the ailing king, supported by whitening makeup making him look increasingly like the living dead as he descends into madness. And thanks to a strong supporting cast, the drama is never overpowered by the visual spectacle. The result is big, bold, heavy and human.