‘Throne of Blood:’ A Retrospective

In one month, “Throne of Blood,” a film inspired by Macbeth and set in 1500s Japan, will celebrate its 65th anniversary. The film was directed by Akira Kurosawa, a famous Japanese film director known for his 1950s to 1960s samurai films such as “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo.” “Throne of Blood,” inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is one of three Kurosawa films inspired by Shakespeare plays. 

The recurring aspect of fog is one of the film’s most distinct cimeratographal choices. Kurosawa is known for his recognizable use of nature and weather, such as rain or clouds to add interest and movement to still shots. Fog is unique to “Throne of Blood,” where it is used in most outdoor shots, from a heavy veil of fog in the forest to the wisps of smoke-like tendrils sweeping shots of the valley. Scenes that display the most fog emanate a feeling of mystery and the supernatural: the opening scene, with a foggy magical forest; surrounding the mysterious evil spirit; and the final scene, with the forest seeming to magically move towards the castle, the low fog obscuring the humans carrying each cut-down tree. 

Like most of Kurosawa’s films, the acting in “Throne of Blood” is exceptional. Toshio Mifune, who is the most famous recurring actor in Kurosawa’s films, such as “Yojimbo, “Seven Samurai,” and “High and Low,” plays the character of Washizu (the equivalent of Macbeth) who starts off as a samurai staunchly loyal to his daimyo. However, he quickly abandons his loyalty in exchange for power guaranteed by the evil spirit. The terror of Toshio Mifune’s death was effectively depicted with his very own soldiers shooting him down with arrows, the advent of the trees in the forest advancing forward the castle. To capture authentic emotion, real arrows were shot at the Mifune, his genuine expressions of terror making it one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film.

Kurosawa was a consistently successful film director that “Throne of Blood,” as spectacular as it is, is not commonly considered one of his top five films. I give the film a 9.5/10—I cannot identify something that ‘should have been done differently’ or that I was dissatisfied with, yet Kurosawa has many films that are considered to be better, so therefore I cannot give a perfect score of ten without further comparison.