“Throne of Blood” – Chris Luedtke

Some pictures we can’t help but smile at knowing they’ve been made. These films bring together some of the finest elements of cinema: character depth, compelling story, gorgeous camerawork, and unforgettable moments. Take Throne of Blood in this instance; it has all of these elements and more that just burst out of the DVD shelf case.

Akira Kurosawa takes on William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” with Throne of Blood. Here we find Taketori Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) and his comrade Yoshiaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki) lost in the woods, where they encounter an evil spirit that tells them of the great changes that are soon to befall their empire and how they will play a hand in it. Washizu is to take the throne as the new ruler of his people, according to the evil spirit’s prophecies. However, Miki’s son is to succeed Washizu once his rule is over. Both men leave the forest in disbelief, trying to shake it off as a joke. But no sooner does Washizu return than his bloody quest for the throne begins.

Throne of Blood’s opening scene is haunting. The fog rolling over the nearly invisible hills, slowly closing in on a sign that says “Here stood Spider’s Web Castle” is a sight you won’t soon forget. The foreshadowing here to the events to befall couldn’t set us up better. The chill of the fog can almost be felt pouring through the screen. Kurosawa knows how to make a movie and knows better than most how to create a mood. Those who have seen Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo know that Kurosawa has mastered the art of epic battle, depression, and overall badassery.

The plot moves at a more than fitting pace. Despite how uncomfortable and maddening its events are, we are still totally content with its flow. Mifune is really what makes this film so incredible. His varying character is just awesome, almost bi-polar sometimes. His descent into power-hungry madness can’t be denied. Mifune basically commands this film, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m completely okay with that. Next to Yojimbo, I would call this his best role. Other characters do well. Lady Asaji Washizu (Isuzu Yamada) does a good job of being his nut-job wife. Miki also does a good job at being Mifune’s best friend, and his convincing loyalty is commended. Still, looking at all these parts, Mifune lords over this movie as though he were its god.

It’s hard to say much more about Throne of Blood without giving away some key plot elements. I don’t know how close it is to “Macbeth” because I’ve never read it. Still, with Throne of Blood, Kurosawa has only taken another step further to prove to me that he can do no wrong. If you like samurais, madness, glorious battles, and a pretty badass story, I say check it out. Throne of Blood will stick with you long after the fog has rolled by.

Rating: ★★★★

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s Throne of Blood review here.

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