See the handout on Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957) for details.


William Shakespeare, King Lear ()



  • Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (King Lear) - Tatsya Nakadai
  • Tarotakatora Ichimonji (Goneril) - Akira Terao
  • Jiromasatora Ichimonji - Jinpachi Nezu
  • Saburonaotora Ichimonji - Daisuke Ryu
  • Lady Kaede - Mieko Harada
  • Lady Sue - Yoshiko Miyazaki
  • Ikoma - Kazuo Kato
  • Tango - Masayuki Yui
  • Peter (the transvestite Fool) - Kyoami

The 75-year old Kurosawa turns his attention from the Western to Shakespeare (King Lear with the daughters turned into sons) in Ran (meaning "fury", "revolt", "madness"). The film is again set in 16thC Japan (during the civil wars which eventually brought the Tokugawa clan to power and created a nation state in Japan) where an aging feudal warlord, Hidetora, who has acquired extensive territory through violence and conquest over a period spanning half a century, abdicates and divides his territory and castles among his three sons (the eldest son is Taro). He plans to live out his retirement by traveling with his entourage of warriors and entertainers from castle to castle. The two sons who had shown the most outward display of affection towards their father quickly turn against him. The youngest son who had rebuked his father for foolishness and prophesied a war between the ambitious brothers for control of the state, thereby incurring his father's wrath, is really the one who loves him most. For some reason Shakespeare's tragedies translate very well to feudal Japan. Kurosawa's battle sequences are some of the best in the history of cinema and yet they do not detract from or act as a substitute for plot, characterisation and a deep message about loyalty, ambition and foolishness.

The King Lear character is played by Tatsuya Nakadai (1932-) who began his career in the 1950s and established himself in the films of director Masaki Kobayashi, notably as the hero of Kobayashi's great trilogy, The Human Condition (1959-61).


1. Yet again AK adapts a Shakespeare play and makes a samurai film set it in 16thC Japan. Why the attraction to this period?

2. The setting of the castles. Two historical castles, Himeji and Kumamoto, were used for location shots and one castle was constructed on the flank of Mount Fuji (like in Throne of Blood).

3. The masterly way in which AK combines historical settings, spectacular battle sequences in colour, humour, a deep exploration into the nature of human folly and madness.