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Parallels in Kurosawa and Macbeth

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Mention "Shakespeare" and it is unlikely that Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Throne of Blood will come to mind. However, it is almost as close to Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's more renowned literary creations, as one can get. Kurosawa's Throne of Blood is actually a transposition of the Shakespearean drama from Scottish medieval times to a feudal samurai Japanese setting, and stands as a prime example of cinematic cross-cultural pollination. Kurosawa expertly melds the Oriental and the Occidental, and on this occasion, it is the West which provides the content and the East the form. Despite the cultural difference, both Macbeth and Throne of Blood deal with the same all-encompassing theme of the human condition. Humans are three-dimensional creatures, and we can be cooperative, loving and selfless in just the same way that we can be competitive, aggressive and selfish. It is almost paradoxical that while we can be capable of love and sensitivity, we regularly perform acts of greed, hatred, brutality, rape, murder and war. This contradictory capacity is what we call the human condition, and this universal phenomenon constantly makes an appearance in these two conventions. ...read more.


Lady Asaji Washizu is played by Isuzu Yamada in an equally laudable turn of her role. She has the honourable distinction of starring in one of the film's most memorable and spectacular sequences, where she, daze-like, washes her hands clean of the ostensible blood. However, there is a glaring lack of soap and water as she monotonously repeats the process over and over again, and one is tempted to read deeper into the act as a desire to cleanse herself of the guilt that is haunting her. This hand-washing ritual, combined with her husband's visions, is evidence of the human condition, but from a different perspective: this posits that even the most nefarious of characters, as Lady Washizu is portrayed to be because of her horrifying make-up and manipulative behaviour whilst Washizu himself is a murderer, can have a conscience, albeit that conscience reveals itself in the most unusual ways. Lady Washizu is a manifestation of another one of the film's numerous successes - the make-up. With her additional pair of artificial, drawn-on eyebrows and unnaturally pasty complexion, Lady Washizu is undisputedly one of Throne of Blood's most chilling characters. ...read more.


This destroys the heroic and righteous moral ending of the original Macbeth. Instead, Washizu is killed by an ambiguous mass assassination, a morally inconclusive ending that obtains more sympathy for Washizu than Macbeth's own demise at the hands of Macduff did for him. The repetition of the chant that follows in this film's final moments implies that this sequence of events is inevitable, and will happen again due to the fundamentally ambitious nature of humans. Furthermore, there is the corruption of the Duncan character. Washizu murders his Lord, who had himself murdered his own Lord. This changes the entire dynamic of the story, once again emphasising the cycle of doom Washizu is caught up in, and pointing out the inherent corruptness of this system of rule. There is no obvious moral successor to the Cobweb castle, because all the Lords have taken the Throne with some degree of bloodshed. Whilst Shakespeare focuses on the noble but flawed individual, Kurosawa examines the flawed society as a whole, or a universal flaw in human nature. In this respect, Washizu is indubitably a far different creature to Macbeth, as he has been more humanized, his motivation more understandable, and his tragedy more inevitable. ...read more.

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