In a decades-long career marked by a series of celebrated epic films, ‘Ran’ is generally considered to be director Akira Kurosawa’s crowning achievement – indeed, when asked to name his own best film, or so the story goes, Kurosawa’s response was invariably “my next one” – until, that is, he had made ‘Ran’. Vast in scope and profound in its consideration of greed, chaos and human folly – unsurprising, given that the screenplay is broadly inspired by ‘King Lear’, William Shakespeare’s master tragedy – ‘Ran’ is the story of the tyrant warlord Hidetora and the deterioration of his kingdom after he decides to hand power over to his sons.
While Kurosawa preferred to make little use of music in his films, when he did use it the results were striking. ‘Ran’ provides a particularly electrifying example during its great battle sequence, when Kurosawa chooses to silence the ambient sound, leaving only composer Tôru Takemitsu’s music to accompany the visuals. The screen is consumed with rivers of blood, showers of arrows, and dead and dying soldiers; backed by Takemitsu’s sweeping Romantic score, this heart-rending depiction of the madness of war is elevated to a sort of magnificent horror.
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