|Throne of Blood|
|Directed by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Based on|| Macbeth |
by William Shakespeare (uncredited)
|Edited by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Music by||Masaru Sato|
|Box office||¥198 million|
Throne of Blood (蜘蛛巣城, Kumonosu-jō, lit. 'Spider Web Castle') is a 1957 Japanese historical drama film co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama. The film stars Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada in the lead roles, modelled on the characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
As with the play, the film tells the story of a warrior who assassinates his sovereign at the urging of his ambitious wife. Kurosawa was a fan of the play and intended to make his own adaptation for several years, delaying it after learning of Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948). Among his changes was the ending, which required archers to fire arrows around Mifune. The film was shot around Mount Fuji and Izu Peninsula.
Despite the change in setting and language and numerous creative liberties, Throne of Blood is often considered one of the better film adaptations of the play. It won two Mainichi Film Awards, including Best Actor for Mifune.
Generals Miki and Washizu are samurai commanders and friends under Lord Tsuzuki, a local lord, who reigns in the castle of the Spider's Web Forest. After defeating the lord's enemies in battle, they return to Tsuzuki's castle. On their way through the thick forest surrounding the castle, they meet an evil spirit, who foretells their future. The spirit tells them that today Washizu will be named Lord of the Northern Garrison and Miki will become commander of the first fortress. The spirit then foretells that Washizu eventually will become Lord of Spider's Web Castle, and finally she tells Miki that his son will become lord of the castle. When the two return to Tsuzuki's estate, he rewards them with exactly what the spirit had predicted. As Washizu discusses this with Asaji, his wife, she manipulates him into making the second part of the prophecy come true by murdering Tsuzuki when he visits.
Washizu kills Tsuzuki with the help of his wife, who gives drugged sake to the lord's guards, causing them to fall asleep. When Washizu returns in shock at his deed, Asaji grabs the bloody spear and puts it in the hands of one of the three unconscious guards. She then yells "intruder" through the courtyard, and Washizu slays the guard before he has a chance to plead his innocence. Tsuzuki's vengeful son Kunimaru and Noriyasu, an advisor to Tsuzuki, both suspect Washizu as the traitor and try to warn Miki, who refuses to believe what they are saying about his friend. Under Asaji's influence, Washizu is unsure of Miki's loyalty, but chooses Miki's son as his heir because he and Asaji have no child of their own. Washizu plans to tell Miki and his son about his decision at a grand banquet. However, Asaji tells him that she is pregnant, which leaves him with a quandary concerning his heir; now Miki and his son have to be eliminated.
During the banquet, Washizu is agitated because Miki and his son have not shown up. Washizu drinks sake copiously. He loses his self-control when Miki's ghost suddenly appears. In a delusional panic, he reveals what has happened to Miki by exclaiming that he is willing to slay Miki a second time, going so far as unsheathing his sword and striking the air over Miki's mat. Asaji, attempting to pick up the pieces of Washizu's blunder, tells the guests that he is only drunk and that they must retire for the evening. One of Washizu's men arrives carrying a bundle (presumably the severed head of Miki) and tells Washizu and Asaji that Miki's son escaped. Washizu kills the assassin.
Later, Washizu is distraught to learn his heir is stillborn. In order to ascertain the outcome of the impending battle with his foes, Washizu returns to the forest to summon the evil spirit. The spirit tells him that he will not be defeated in battle until "the trees of the Spider's Web Forest rise against the castle". Washizu believes this is impossible and becomes confident of his victory. Washizu tells his troops of the evil spirit's prophecy, and they share his confidence of victory. The next morning, Washizu is awakened by the screams of Asaji's attendants. Striding into his wife's quarters, he finds Asaji in a semi-catatonic state, trying to wash clean an imaginary stain and stench of blood from her hands. Distracted by the sound of his troops, Washizu leaves to investigate. Washizu is told by a panicked soldier that the trees of Spider's Web Forest "have risen to attack us".
Washizu tries to muster his troops, but they ignore his commands. The troops begin firing arrows at Washizu, and when he tells them that to kill the Great Leader is treason, they accuse Washizu of the murder of his predecessor. Washizu finally succumbs to his arrow wounds, attempting to draw his sword as he dies, just as his enemies approach the castle gates. It is then revealed that the attacking force had used trees, cut from the forest during the night, to shield their advance onto the castle.
|Toshiro Mifune||Washizu Taketoki (鷲津 武時)||Macbeth|
|Isuzu Yamada||Washizu Asaji (鷲津 浅茅)||Lady Macbeth|
|Takashi Shimura||Odakura Noriyasu (小田倉 則保)||Macduff|
|Akira Kubo||Miki Yoshiteru (三木 義照)||Fleance|
|Hiroshi Tachikawa||Tsuzuki Kunimaru (都築 国丸)||Malcolm|
|Minoru Chiaki||Miki Yoshiaki (三木 義明)||Banquo|
|Takamaru Sasaki||Lord Tsuzuki Kuniharu (都築 国春)||King Duncan|
|Kokuten Kōdō||First General|
|Sachio Sakai||Washizu's samurai|
|Yū Fujiki||Washizu's samurai|
|Ueda Kichijiro||Washizu's workman|
|Takeshi Katō||Tsuzuki's samurai|
|Shōbun Inoue||Tsuzuki's messenger|
|Asao Koike||Tsuzuki's messenger|
|Isao Kimura||Messenger (Phantom)|
|Seiji Miyaguchi||Messenger (Phantom)|
|Eiko Miyoshi||Senior lady-in-waiting|
|Chieko Naniwa||The Spirit of Spider's Web (物の怪の妖婆)||Three Witches|
William Shakespeare's plays had been read in Japan since the Meiji Restoration in 1868,though banned during World War II for not being Japanese. Director Akira Kurosawa stated that he had admired Shakespeare's Macbeth for a long time, and that he envisioned making a film adaptation of it after he completed his 1950 film Rashomon . When he learned that Orson Welles had released his own version of Macbeth in 1948, Kurosawa decided to postpone his adaptation project for several years.
Kurosawa believed that Scotland and Japan in the Middle Ages shared social problems and that these had lessons for the present day. Moreover, Macbeth could serve as a cautionary tale complementing his 1952 film Ikiru .
The film combines Shakespeare's play with the Noh style of drama.Kurosawa was an admirer of Noh, which he preferred over Kabuki. In particular, he wished to incorporate Noh-style body movements and set design. Noh also makes use of masks, and the evil spirit is seen, in different parts of the film, wearing faces reminiscent of these masks, starting with yaseonna (old lady). Noh often stresses the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. This is connected to Washizu being denied salvation, with the chorus singing that his ghost is still in the world. Furthermore, the film score's use of flute and drum are drawn from Noh.
Originally, Kurosawa planned only to produce the film and assumed he would not direct. However, when Toho (the production company) assessed the budget, they judged that the film would be costly and insisted that Kurosawa direct it.
The castle exteriors were built and shot on Mount Fuji. The castle courtyard was constructed at Toho's Tamagawa studio, with volcanic soil brought from Fuji so that the ground matched. The interiors were shot in a smaller studio in Tokyo. The forest scenes were a combination of actual Fuji forest and studio shots in Tokyo. Washizu's mansion was shot in the Izu Peninsula.
In Kurosawa's own words,
It was a very hard film to make. We decided that the main castle set had to be built on the slope of Mount Fuji, not because I wanted to show this mountain but because it has precisely the stunted landscape that I wanted. And it is usually foggy. I had decided that I wanted lots of fog for this film... Making the set was very difficult because we didn't have enough people and the location was so far from Tokyo. Fortunately, there was a U.S. Marine Corps base nearby, and they helped a great deal; also a whole MP battalion helped us out. We all worked very hard indeed, clearing the ground, building the set. Our labor on this steep fog-bound slope, I remember, absolutely exhausted us; we almost got sick.
Production designer Yoshirō Muraki said the crew opted to employ the color black in the set walls, and a lot of armor, to complement the mist and fog effects. This design was based on ancient scrolls depicting Japanese castles.
Washizu's death scene, in which his own archers turn upon him and shoot him with arrows, was in fact performed with real arrows, shot by knowledgeable and skilled archers. During filming, Mifune waved his arms, which was how the actor indicated his intended bodily direction. This was for his own safety in order to prevent the archers accidentally hitting him.
In Japan, the film was released by Toho on 15 January 1957. It played at 110 minutes and brought in more revenue than any other Toho film that year.
In the United States, the film was distributed by Brandon Films at 105 minutes and opened on 22 November 1961.In Region A, The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray in 2014, having released a DVD version 10 years before.
In 1961, the Time review praised Kurosawa and the film as "a visual descent into the hell of greed and superstition".Writing for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther called the idea of Shakespeare in Japanese "amusing," and complimented the cinematography. Most critics stated it was the visuals that filled the gap left by the removal of Shakespeare's poetry. U.K. directors Geoffrey Reeve and Peter Brook considered the film to be a masterpiece, but denied it was a Shakespeare film because of the language. Author Donald Richie praised the film as "a marvel because it is made of so little: fog, wind, trees, mist".
The film has received praise from literary critics despite the many liberties it takes with the original play. The American literary critic Harold Bloom judged it "the most successful film version of Macbeth".Sylvan Barnet writes it captured Macbeth as a strong warrior, and that "Without worrying about fidelity to the original," Throne of Blood is "much more satisfactory" than most Shakespeare films.
In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film four stars, calling it a "graphic, powerful adaptation".Throne of Blood currently holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Kinema Junpo Awards||1958||Best Actress||Isuzu Yamada||Won|
|Mainichi Film Awards||1957||Best Actor||Toshirô Mifune||Won|
|Best Art Direction||Yoshirō Muraki||Won|
Roman Polanski's 1971 film version of Macbeth has similarities to Throne of Blood, in shots of characters on twisted roads, set design, and music to identify locations and psychological conditions.Toshiro Mifune's death scene was the source of inspiration for Piper Laurie's death scene in the 1976 film Carrie , in which knives are thrown at her, in this case by character Carrie White using her psychic powers. Kurosawa returned to adapting Shakespeare, choosing the play King Lear for his 1985 film Ran , and again moving the setting to feudal Japan.
Throne of Blood is referenced in the anime film Millennium Actress (2001) in the form of the Forest Spirit/Witch.It was adapted for the stage by director Ping Chong, premiering at the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.
Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker and painter who directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential film-makers in the history of cinema.
Lord Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber, is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally of Macbeth and they meet the Three Witches together. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his descendants will be. Later, Macbeth in his lust for power sees Banquo as a threat and has him murdered by three hired assassins; Banquo's son, Fleance, escapes. Banquo's ghost returns in a later scene, causing Macbeth to react with alarm during a public feast.
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Toshiro Mifune was a Japanese actor who appeared in over 150 feature films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration (1948–1965) with Akira Kurosawa in such works as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo. He also portrayed Miyamoto Musashi in Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy and one earlier Inagaki film, Lord Toranaga in the NBC television miniseries Shōgun, and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in three different films.
Sanjuro is a 1962 black-and-white Japanese jidaigeki film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. It is a sequel to Kurosawa's 1961 Yojimbo.
Yojimbo is a 1961 Japanese samurai film directed by Akira Kurosawa, who produced the film with Tomoyuki Tanaka and Ryūzō Kikushima. Kurosawa wrote the screenplay with Kikushima and Hideo Oguni based on Kurosawa's story. Kurosawa also edited the film. It tells the story of a rōnin, portrayed by Toshiro Mifune, who arrives in a small town where competing crime lords vie for supremacy. The two bosses each try to hire the newcomer as a bodyguard.
Ikiru is a 1952 Japanese drama film directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa and starring Takashi Shimura. The film examines the struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. The screenplay was partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1886 novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich.
Kamatari Fujiwara was a Japanese actor.
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Drunken Angel is a 1948 Japanese yakuza film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is notable for being the first of sixteen film collaborations between director Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune.
Fleance is a figure in legendary Scottish history. He was depicted by 16th-century historians as the son of Lord Banquo, Thane of Lochaber, and the ancestor of the kings of the House of Stuart. Fleance is best known as a character in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth, in which the Three Witches prophecy that Banquo's descendants shall be kings. Some screen adaptations of the story expand on Fleance's role by showing his return to the kingdom after Macbeth's death.
Fumio Hayasaka was a Japanese composer of classical music and film scores.
William Shakespeare's Macbeth has been screened numerous times, featuring many of the biggest names from stage, film, and television.
The Three Witches, also known as the Weird Sisters or Wayward Sisters, are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth. The witches eventually lead Macbeth to his demise, and hold a striking resemblance to the three Fates of classical mythology. Their origin lies in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland. Other possible sources, aside from Shakespeare, include British folklore, contemporary treatises on witchcraft as King James VI of Scotland's Daemonologie, the Witch of Endor from the Bible, the Norns of Norse mythology, and ancient classical myths of the Fates: the Greek Moirai and the Roman Parcae.
Kajirō Yamamoto was a Japanese film director, screenwriter, and actor who was known for his war films and comedies and as the mentor of Akira Kurosawa. The combined list of his efforts as a director for documentaries, silent, and sound films includes over 90 film titles during his lifetime.
Sōjirō Motoki was a Japanese filmmaker who served primarily as a film producer, but also as a writer and director. He was most famous for producing several films for Akira Kurosawa, including Seven Samurai, Ikiru and Throne of Blood. He also produced films for other directors, including Mikio Naruse, for whom he produced Spring Awakens and Battle of Roses, and Kazuo Mori, for whom he produced Vendetta for a Samurai. As a writer, he provided the story for Kei Kumai's 1968 film The Sands of Kurobe, starring Kurosawa favorite Toshiro Mifune.
The legacy of filmmaking technique left by Akira Kurosawa for subsequent generations of filmmakers has been diverse and of international influence. The legacy of influence has ranged from working methods, influence on style, and selection and adaptation of themes in cinema. Kurosawa's working method was oriented toward extensive involvement with numerous aspects of film production. He was also an effective screenwriter who would work in close contact with his writers very early in the production cycle to ensure high quality in the scripts which would be used for his films.
Chieko Naniwa was a Japanese actress who was active from the 1920s to the 1970s. She is best known for playing geisha in several films, such as Keiji Mizoguchi's A Geisha, and the Forest Spirit in Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. Her birth name was Kikuno Nanko.