by: Declan O’Toole
The foreign film market has not always been as wide as it is now. Back in the 1950’s it was rare to see films not directed by an American director in theaters, but a director named Akira Kurosawa was determined to spread his influence past Japan. To do this, he adapted famous western stories into samurai epics that would appeal to the Japanese audience by involving their culture while bringing in western audiences with the familiar tales. Throne of Blood is an semi-faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth although now it takes place in feudal era Japan. It is a bizarre dive into the psyche of a samurai lord who is tormented by the prophecy of an evil spirit he met on his travels. The prophecy entails that he would become the Great Lord of the castle he protects which he interprets as him betraying and assassinating his Lord to take his place. With his equally suspicious wife, they begin to fall into madness as they try to not only fulfill parts of the prophecy, but also avoid the doom that it predicts. The film is a slow burn and takes a while to really get going. It can really drag its feet in certain sections that can make it a very difficult watch. Luckily the film sports a short run time of only an hour and forty minutes. When all the pieces have fallen into place though, the film becomes wildly entertaining as different events begin to unfold, making you question what is real and what is inside the head of our main character. The atmosphere of this film is brilliant, from the music to the shots, it all comes together to create this unsettling environment that borders a psychological horror film more than a drama sometimes. The performance from lead actor Toshiro Mifune pulls into the same pit of anguish that his character goes through and is undoubtedly the best part of the film. It is a timeless story that remains powerful to this day. Kurosawa was a master at getting the maximum detail in a black and white film and this one is no different. Every shot is packed with excellent detail. While I love this movie myself, I think this would be a poor entrance into Kurosawa’s films. I think it would be better to start out with some of the formerly mentioned films before tackling this one due to its dense nature. If you are already a film fan and enjoy classic cinema though, this film is perfect for you. Throne of Blood gets an 8/10 for its excellent presentation and performances that easily cement in Kurosawa’s list of masterworks.