One of the most celebrated screen adaptations of Shakespeare into film, Akira Kurosawa?s Throne of Blood re-imagines Macbeth in feudal Japan. Starring Kurosawa?s longtime collaborator Toshiro Mifune and the legendary Isuzu... more » Yamada as his ruthless wife, the film tells of a valiant warrior?s savage rise to power and his ignominious fall. With Throne of Blood, Kurosawa fuses one of Shakespeare?s greatest tragedies with the formal elements of Japanese Noh theater to make a Macbeth that is all his own?a classic tale of ambition and duplicity set against a ghostly landscape of fog and inescapable doom.« less
"Kurosawa and Shakespeare are a winning combination. With "Throne of Blood," Kurosawa strips Macbeth to the bare bones of plot, then packs on new flesh in the form of scheming ambition in feudal Japan. In this version, Washizu (Macbeth) is somewhat simple, and content with what comes his way, be it castle or fort, honor or deceit. His wife, the infamous Lady Macbeth, is chillingly calm and dangerous. She has no interest in her husband's contentment, and knows that the only way to advance her position is to advance the position of her husband, by whatever means necessary. Her role as the spider is particularly suited to the halls of the Cobweb Castle.The acting and filming are up to the quality that one expects from Kurosawa and Mifune. The pacing of the film is full of dynamic contrasts, going from heart-pounding action to patient silence. This film is not spoon-fed to you, but demands your concentration. The visuals are particularly stunning in "Throne of Blood." The cobweb forest is haunting, and the single weird sister, all in white spinning in a white cage, maintains the same chilling calmness of Washizu's wife.One of the many nice touches of "Throne of Blood" is the chance to see that Samurai at the height of their power. These are not the poor, struggling warriors of "Seven Samurai" or "Yojimbo." Washizu is decked out in full armor for the bulk of the film, and his castle is defended and attacked by well-dressed armies. Each lord is powerful and wields mighty forces.Oh, and of course, the big finish. All I can say is wow."
A Kurosawa Classic
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 12/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A great deal has been made of the fact that THRONE OF BLOOD (also known as SPIDER'S WEB CASTLE) is drawn from one of Shakespeare's most celebrated plays. This is both a blessing and a curse, for while it gives western audiences a point of reference, it also invites all sorts of comparisons that viewers familiar with the Shakespeare play feel honor-bound to make--and that can get in the way of seeing the film as it is rather than what we expect it to be. And that would be a great pity, because what it is in and of itself is quite fine indeed.The cast is a very strong ensemble, with frequent Kurosawa star Torshiro Mifune leading the film with a remarkably fine performance as the ambitious warrior Taketori Washizu. To my mind, however, the most memorable performance is offered by Isuzu Yamada as Lady Washizu--who plays the role with a demonic stillness that cracks into physical action only when she is completely sure of herself or in utter desperation. It is one of the most disturbing characterizations I have ever encountered.As usual in any Kurosawa film, the imagery involved is extremely powerful, and the moody tone of the film quickly draws viewers in--and once ensnared there is no escape; the film holds your attention with considerable ease throughout. Even so, I would not recommend THRONE OF BLOOD to western audiences who have never seen a Kurosawa film, for it is so completely Japanese in aesthetic that some may find it hard to grasp. It is best seen after you are already familiar with both Kurosawa's work and Japanese cinema in general.The Criterion DVD is quite good, with a nicely restored transfer and bonus features that include the original trailer, a choice of subtitle translations (I prefer the Hoagland translation), and a somewhat awkward but ultimately rewarding commentary track by Michael Jeck. If you're a Kurosawa fan and you've never seen THRONE OF BLOOD, this is your opportunity; if you're looking to replace an existing video with a DVD, this one is likely as good as it gets. Strongly recommended.GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
Robert Lipsitz | Washington D.C. | 03/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Throne of Blood is a masterpiece by one of the world's greatest film makers at the height of his powers.
Only Kurosawa could take the essence of Shakespearian stage drama and incorporate it into the medium of film as a dynamic tour de force. Yet at the same time he remains faithful to elements of Noh (a stagy traditional Japanese play-form in which design and movement are minimalized). A seeming contradiction, dynamism and static-ness yet Kurosawa masters both in the same medium. As usual; acting, writing, cinematography, sound, direction and production are all pitch perfect.
In this second Shakespearian based film by Kurosawa, focus is on the interplay of fate, free will and the fine thread the human psyche uses to weave the two together. On a more simpler level it is a man living and dying by the sword. In short what goes around comes around. What comes around for Toshiro Mifune as he gets his just deserts is a scene with straight as an arrow, perfect direction by Kurosawa leading to quite a pointed culminatin of events (pun intended...see the movie you'll understand).
Bonus features include excellent linear notes as well as the superb commentary of Donald Richie. Few people are more knowledgeable about film and Japanese film then he. The commentary is almost as interesting as the movie itself.
As usual Criterion presents its film in pristine condition. Some may complain that Criterion is too pricey but with them you get the best cinema has to offer. You cannot go wrong. One Kurosawa masterpiece packs more poignancy, punch and philosophy then 10 lesser films thus you get 10 times the movie at 5 times the price, really quite a deal if you look at it that way. "
Throne of Blood, the Japanese version of Macbeth
Takanori Watanabe | Nagoya, Japan | 01/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a student at Nagoya International School. Japanese is my first language, but I have studied English in my International School. And I was fortunate to see "Throne of Blood" in my English literature class. After viewing the movie, I found Kurosawa's Japanese version of Shakespeare's Macbeth was a spectacular masterpiece. "Throne of Blood" altered the setting of the story, but still kept the atmosphere of the original Macbeth, which was set in Scotland. I was afraid that the Japanese language in the movie would spoil the rich Shakespearian language included in the film. But Kurosawa kept the theme of Macbeth alive in the film by modifying couple of characters and plots of the story. For example, because witches aren't familiar to the Japanese in the 16th century, they replaced the witch by an evil spirit, Mononoke. Also, Kurosawa excluded characters like Macduff. So in the movie, the Mononoke didn't give the prophecy of "Beware of Macduff" and "Be afraid of no women born". Other than that, virtually all of the plot and characters were the same as the original version of Macbeth. This exhibits the fact that Kurosawa has successfully managed to keep the mood and the theme of Macbeth alive in the film."
"Ambition makes the man..."
Bill Lee | Florida | 11/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this 1957 film directed by Akira Kurosawa, Lord Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Lord Miki (Akira Kubo) encounter a spirit in a maze-like forest that prophesies great things for the two comrades: the former will someday rule the imposing Spider's Web Castle and the latter will take his friend's position as commander of the First Fortress. Even beyond that, the spirit predicts that Miki's son will one day succeed Washizu as the master of Spider's Web Castle. Although the two men are initially reluctant to trust the spirit's words, preliminary parts of the prophecy come to pass, thus setting into motion a bloody chain of events that explores the differences between active and passive destiny. Lady Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), Washizu's scheming wife, prods her husband to seize the reigns of power at any cost. She insists that Washizu's only restraint is his own ambition and that heaven itself had preordained his rise.
Here, of course, is where the trouble begins. Asaji is initially convinced of the legitimacy of the spirit's words and points out to her husband that without his doing anything, part of the prophecy had come to pass. She then declares that Washizu must take the next step of killing the Great Lord in order to fulfill his destiny. And yet there is an obvious question that arises at this point...Miki's son, skeptical of the prospect of his succession to the throne of Spider's Web Castle, tells his father that the spirit's prophecy is only coming true because he and Washizu took it upon themselves to make it so; was it fate or was it a series of man-made coincidences? Asaji paradoxically takes both views as she becomes enraged at the thought of Miki's son and his posterity being the ones to benefit most from Washizu's deeds. Now discounting the inevitability of the spirit's words, Asaji demands that Washizu put an end to Miki and his son to clear the way for their own unborn child. Will Washizu trust the spirit and remain passive or will he actively take matters into his own hand? Will he succeed in rebuffing the spirit and shaping his own destiny or will he fail and fulfill the prophecy anyway?
The film itself is excellently done (it doesn't get much better than Mifune and Kurosawa working together) and as with most Criterion Collection DVDs, this one is filled with extras. My favorite feature is the two separate English-language subtitlings. The first is a bit more literary and not quite as literal (I'm so clever sometimes). The second is more conservative and stays closer to a truly accurate translation. Compare these sentences: "he has imbibed too freely" as opposed to "he has had too much wine." Because this is a period drama, the first feels more appropriate to me, especially since the status-based honorifics of Japanese culture (-san, -sama, -dono, etc.) generally lend themselves to older modes of the English language when translating them. The more lyrical translation can be a bit much at times, however, so I can certainly understand why someone would be inclined to prefer the more accurate one.
Though I was not particularly enthusiastic about the price-tag of this film, I was satisfied with the results. Highly recommended to all those with a penchant for high quality cinema."