The Throne of Blood


B & W / Standard / 1957 / 110 min / Toho

Directed by: Kurosawa Akira
Screenplay by: Oguni Hideo, Hashimoto Shinobu, Kikushima Ryuzo, Kurosawa Akira
Photography: Nakai Asakazu
Art director: Muraki Yoshiro
Music: Sato Masaru
Based on a play by: William Shakespeare
Produced by: Kurosawa Akira, Motoki Sojiro

Washizu Taketoki: Mifune Toshiro
Asachi (his wife): Yamada Isuzu
Odakura Noriyasu: Shimura Takashi
Miki Yoshiaki: Chiaki Minoru
Yoshiteru (Yoshiaki’s son): Kubo Akira
Tsuzuki Kuniharu: Sasaki Takamaru
Kunimaru (Kuniharu’s son): Tachikawa Yoichi
Old witch: Naniwa Chieko

SETTING: 16th Century (Era of Civil Wars)

LOCATION: Somewhere in Japan

During the inter-clan rivalry of the Feudal Ages, WASHIZU TAKETOKI and MIKI YOSHIAKI, under command of TSUZUKI KUNIHARU, lord of the Kumonosu Castle, have routed the rebel forces and are on their way back to the castle. An old woman living in a shack in the woods on meeting them predicts that TAKETOKI would eventually become the lord of the castle and after him, YOSHIAKI’s son, YOSHITERU would take over as lord.
TAKETOKI’s wife, ASACHI, an evil-hearted woman, suggests that TAKETOKI murder KUNIHARU before YOSHIAKI mentions to him the old woman’s prediction. TAKETOKI does as his wife suggests and becomes lord of the castle. TAKETOKI who has no child and is without heir attempts to pass on the lordship to YOSHITERU. But ASACHI has now become completely enthralled by the glory and reputation, takes advantage of the fact she has become pregnant and again prevails upon TAKETOKI to murder YOSHIAKI. TAKETOKI however is bothered by his conscience and becomes half insane, and ASACHI’s baby is still born.
The Army Chief of Staff ODAKURA NORIYASU joins forces with YOSHITERU to fight TAKETOKI for the sake of KUNIHARU’s son KUNIHARU. ASACHI takes complete leave of her senses, but TAKETOKI believes in the old woman’s prediction that he will not suffer defeat unless the entire forest moves against him to attack. But in the night, he actually sees the forest moving in to attack, and dies in the midst of fear and agony. At dawn, it becomes clear that what appeared to be the woods were twigs and branches worn by the attackers to camouflage themselves.

This is an adaptation of Macbeth, one of the three tragedies written by Shakespeare turning it into a tragedy of one Japanese samurai leader. This chieftain is goaded by predictions and the bloodthirsty human conflict is handled in the same manner as the original. But the performance style has adopted the Japanese Noh play touch which is heavily reflected in the interior chamber scenes, especially by YAMADA ISUZU who plays the role of ASACHI, both in terms of make-up and action.
The fighting action scenes are pronounced in the typically KUROSAWA manner. MIFUNE TOSHIRO in the battle scenes fighting to the bitter end with arrows sticking out of his body like a porcupine renders a very impressive performance.

(Kinema Junpo: #4)

 Photo Credit : © 1957 Toho Co., Ltd.