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Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Japan, 1985

Studio Canal, May 2016


This 4K restoration of Kurosawa’s classic film includes lots of extras, including an interview with the wonderful Mieko Harada.

A fairly free adaptation of King Lear, Ran (the title apparently translates as ‘Chaos’) is in essence an antiwar film. It is an epic, yes, and Kurosawa the storyteller commands your attention throughout. Yet each scene is a poem.

The killer sequence is a montage of images of death following a virulent castle siege. It almost stops your heart; you think of Bosch and Goya. The warring men (Lear has sons, not daughters, in this adaptation) are weak and the woman (the Edmund figure, here reminiscent of Lady Macbeth) is fiendishly strong. In this latter role, Mieko Harada gives a fierce performance.

A few times the Lear figure (here a Japanese warlord, played by Tatsuya Nakadai) lifts his eyes up to the sky; a telling gesture. Kurosawa and his Japanese audience knew what Shakespeare did not, that apocalyptic ruin can come from the air.

Ran, a Studio Canal release, is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, details here.