Patrick Jensen’s review published on Letterboxd:
The story of King Lear revolves around the eponymous king abdicating and disposing his estate between his three daughters. The oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, praise the king before they are given their shares, but his youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to speak, as no material possession can match her love. Cordelia's honest speech is interpreted as an insult by the king, and he disinherits her, a decision that will have fatal consequences. While I am not the biggest fan of William Shakespeare, King Lear is a play that I think is great, and since Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa's previous venture into adapting/transforming Shakespeare, turned out to be a fantastic film, I went into Ran with huge expectations. I am happy to say that those expectations were met, as Ran is also a fantastic film that I can barely find any flaws in.
One of the biggest changes in Ran from its source material is instead of three daughters, it is three sons (Taro, Jiro and Saburo) we have as our main characters, and King Hidetora is a more cruel character than the foolish King Lear, as he ascended to power through ruthless means. An example of this is the brutal massacre of the family of Lady Kaede, the wife of his oldest son Taro. The cruelty of Hidetora's regime seeps through every action made by each character of the film, as Taro seeks to remove Hidetora's influence on the Ichimonji clan, while Jiro himself seeks to the rule the clan on his own, while Saburo got banished for taking a stand against the brutal tradition of his father's rule. Furthermore, Lady Kaede is planning her own vengeance against Hidetora through the disintegration of the Ichimonji clan by playing the brothers out against each other. It is high drama handled with expertly care through Kurosawa's direction, which brings excellent performances from every single actor.
If we look at the technical aspects of the film, then I can only say that the cinematography is a marvelous sight to behold, as there are lot of eye-catching and atmospheric shots that shows us a paradoxical beauty to the immense chaos caused by Hidetora's most fatal decision. Jiro's attack on Taro's castle is probably the best example of this, as the great battle is shot expertly with both close and wide shots, that makes it possible for the audience to get immersed in the battle, as well as get an understanding of the magnitude of the chaos caused by showing us Taro's burning castle. The score also worked brilliantly to create a grandiose, yet nihilistic atmosphere to the drama, especially during the scenes with Hidetora and Saburo, through which Hidetora realizes the folly of his actions, although it is unfortunately too late to do anything against it. The weather was, as in Throne of Blood, also used to great effect as foreshadowing of the ensuing brutality that occurred, as well as enhancing the chaotic atmosphere of the film.
In conclusion, Ran is one great masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa, that beautifully shows the massive consequences that lies within our judgements. While Rashomon is still my personal favorite among Kurosawa's films, I can only say that Ran comes very close to obtaining the same effect on me. With that said, though, it is still an absolutely fantastic film that I can only recommend.