Ran ★★★★★

We truly are in hell now.”

Prodigious in scale and downright chilling, Ran is a film unlike anything I’ve seen. A complete epic in filmmaking, filled with awe-inspiring visuals, use of colour, and composition to form one of the best-looking works out there. Its story, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear, lands in being intensely gripping, emotional, and provocative. Nowhere is that emotion in particular more exemplified than in both performances and score. Every performance here is stellar. Every actor and every performer gives their all to this feature. Three of whom which stood out to me most in their sheer excellence are Tatsuya Nakadai, Mieko Harada, and Shinnosuke Ikehata. The stunts also must be commended for how prominent they were. I grew legitimately concerned for one performer who fell of a horse in the film, only to brush close with incoming men on their own horses. Toru Takemitsu’s score provides a sweeping soundscape of tension and enchantment across this beautiful war-torn land. Outside of its powerful orchestral tracks during seemingly-endless bloodshed among other moments, the more subdued tracks continue on the path of being wonderfully well-composed, and fitting with the film’s growing stakes and conflicts. I even thought some of the film’s ambience sounded like screeching violins. 

The film’s cinematography is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, to put it bluntly. Thought the camera itself never moves too frantically or too much, it strongly captures this world in all its elegance and horror. Both costume and production design are magnificent. Between everyone’s outfits and armour, plus the various interior and exterior locales, everything is put together with incredible splendour. Akira Kurosawa’s direction is truly something to behold. Watching this film and seeing its immense scope, from 1985 nonetheless, made for a spectacular viewing. His, and the additional writer’s screenplay sprinkles in some highly thought-provoking lines about humanity and, well us. 

About an hour into the film, there’s this one sequence that occurs. One which left me speechless and on the verge of tears. It reminded me of the power cinema can have, and despite the sequence’s specific content and subject, I felt oddly blessed to have witnessed it right before me. If I had one nitpick about this work, it’s that I found it a bit hard to keep up with every character involved. I managed mostly well, but sometimes I would see someone on-screen and have a bit of trouble recalling them. It did barely anything to affect my viewing. 

Being my first Kurosawa feature, Ran left me undoubtedly amazed at just about everything it had to offer. It is a sheer masterpiece in film itself. 

What a way to bring in the new year.

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