Sight and Sound - 03/01/1985
"...Kurosawa directs RAN with the easy grace that comes of a lifetime's experience..."
Los Angeles Times - 12/28/1985
"...Brisk and vital, elegiac and contemplative, intimate and epic, tragic yet shot through with humor. It combines the energy of youth with the perspective of maturity..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 10/01/2000
"...The film is visually magnificent. Kurosawa refined everything he learned about battle scenes in KAGEMUSHA and the earlier samurai epics..."
USA Today - 01/28/1995
"...A deft switch on Shakespeare's King Lear....[A] stirring epic about familial deceit..."
Uncut - 08/01/2004
"The film] still packs a punch 19 years after its original release."
Entertainment Weekly - 11/25/3005
"Transposing King Lear to feudal Japan, Akira Kurosawa delivers this visual feast of Shakespeare, No theater, and action epics."
Entertainment Weekly - 12/30/2005 Ranked #9 in Entertainment Weekly's Top Ten DVDs Of The Year -- "With his last great masterpiece, Akira Kurosawa accomplished the remarkable -- improving upon Shakespeare."
Total Film - 02/01/2007 5 stars out of 5 -- "Intimate and epic, beautiful and savage, RAN glides between astonishing action sequences and forceful drama..."
For his 27th film, the "sensei" of Japanese cinema, Akira Kurosawa, transposes Shakespeare's KING LEAR to feudal Japan. RAN, which translates as "chaos" or "turmoil," is the tragic tale of Lord Hidetora, a warlord who decides to divide his empire among his three sons on the eve of his 70th birthday. However, Hidetora's youngest and most compassionate son, Saburo, defiantly objects to this hasty decision and is disowned by the proud, stubborn ruler. Once the two eldest sons take control of the empire, they quickly turn on their father and begin vying for total control over the land. As Hidetora is banished from his own kingdom in a bloody battle, he must confront the consequences of his violent, ruthless past. Ten years in the making, RAN represents the culmination of Kurosawa's career by revisiting his skill at adapting Shakespeare, as evidenced in THRONE OF BLOOD, and displaying the cinematic splendor of his other landmark films such as SEVEN SAMURAI and RASHOMON. With its magnificent costumes, breathtaking settings, and amazingly photographed battle sequences, the film is truly stunning. An epic on the grandest of scales, RAN is not only one of Kurosawa's finest films, it is a glorious masterpiece of Japanese cinema.
With RAN, master director Akira Kurosawa transforms Shakespeare's KING LEAR into an epic tragedy set in feudal Japan. On the eve of his 70th birthday, Lord Hidetora prepares to divide his empire among his three sons. In the process, he ends up disowning his youngest son, the only one who truly cares about him. The empire is engulfed in bitter warfare as the two older brothers, after fighting among themselves over the inheritance, turn on their father. Homeless and abandoned by all but his most loyal followers, Hidetora must face both his tragic present state and the actions of his brutal past.
Big Battles |
Essential Cinema |
Family Interaction |
Period Piece |
RAN was released in 1985.
The film had a theatrical rerelease for its 15th anniversary on August 18, 2000 (NY/LA/SEATTLE); fall 2000 (WIDER)
RAN was shot on location in Japan at Himeji Castle, Kumamoto Castle, and Nagoya Castle, in the cities of Gotemba, Kokonoe, and Shonai. Interior scenes were shot at Toho Studios and also at Kurosawa's own studio in Yokohama.
Mount Aso, where many of the mountain and plains sequences were shot, is an active volcano on the island of Kyushu.
Kurosawa employed roughly 1,400 extras and 250 horses for the film's enormous battle scenes. Many of the extras were enthusiastic locals from nearby towns.
Utilizing his famous multicamera method, Kurosawa shot the film simultaneously from different angles using three cameras with various-size lenses.
The film's visuals are strongly influenced by Noh drama. Lord Hidetora's makeup, for example, alludes to ancient Noh tradition, with his face painted to appear as either "akijo," a demon mask, or "shiwajo," the mask of a sorrow-filled elderly wanderer.
In addition to KING LEAR, RAN is also partially based on the 16th-century Japanese legend of Mori, a warlord with three loyal sons. In one of the film's first scenes, Kurosawa presents Mori's story of the three arrows, supposedly unbreakable when held together. Here the director examines what might happen if all three sons were not loyal and the arrows could be broken.
With its similar themes and the same leading actor (Tatsuya Nakadai), Kurosawa's previous film, KAGEMUSHA, was considered a "dry-run" for RAN.
RAN cost $11.5 million to film.
RAN was the winner of the 1985 New York Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Film and the 1985 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film.