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THRONE OF BLOOD (蜘蛛巣城 Kumonosu-jō)
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As an undisputed master of cinema, Akira Kurosawa wasn’t the kind of guy who you imagined would fuck around. As such, in 1957 he decided to take on a work by an author who ranks among the upper echelons of literary and cultural significance by British standards. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the darkest plays the Bard ever wrote and Throne of Blood is what would happen if you took the story and set it in feudal Japan instead of the Middle Ages of Scotland. Cultural, geographical and era-specific differences aside, both the original play and Kurosawa’s film prove that the elements of the story transcend petty boundaries and reinforce that a thirst for power is a human trait, regardless of when or where it occurs.


Throne of Blood is a dark film. It’s consistently ominous and emphasises a bleak way of living in an era where Japan was still heavily immersed in its martial culture of days now passed. Honour, loyalty, duty and the sword are what people live and die by. It’s much like Scotland of the same era in Macbeth. We know that the Macbeth figure is destined to inevitably perish, despite his fleeting success. The elements of the supernatural that appear in the dark and misty forests, the quick rise up the hierarchical ladder of power, the greed that compels Macbeth/Washizu, spurred on by his mad wife…it’s all foretold. Shakespeare was notorious for providing very few stage directions in his works, and as such it’s easy to see how almost any of his plays can be reinterpreted from the original era that they were written in. There are many examples of films that do this, but it’s usually almost exclusively Western. And so, it is because of Japan that Throne of Blood resonates so strongly with the story of Macbeth. Kurosawa’s use of atmospheres (locations, nature), fluctuating between minimal (quiet, suspenseful rooms) and epic (battle scenes, scope of power struggle), the drama and the ever-building tension – all of these and more combine to present a view of an immortal story that was deconstructed in Japan and offered up with alternate elements while its foundations remained identical.

Throne Of Blood (1957) pt. 1 by karimberdi

Throne Of Blood (1957) pt. 2 by karimberdi

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. SpecialK3000

    July 21, 2014 at 4:52 am

    I just wanted to add that the look of this film is based on the Japanese art of Noh theater. The exaggerated facial expressions of the main characters were taken from Noh masks that have been used for centuries – an element (in my opinion) which makes this film all the more interesting .

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