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Ran - Click to view! RAN (1985)
Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa.
MPAA rating: R

Have you ever stopped to consider the long-term consequences of your actions? Ran explores these consequences during the time of warlords in Japan, particularly in the lives of one warlord, Hidetora, and his three sons, Taro, Jiro, and Saburo. Hidetora banishes his youngest son, Saburo, from the land when Saburo expresses misgivings at his father's turning over the land to his eldest son, Taro. From there, we encounter treachery on various fronts, massive battles, revenge, pride, and reconciliation. What more could you want from a movie?

Soon after the eldest son lays claim to the estate, he turns on his father, thus proving Saburo's misgivings well-founded. The father, now exiled, begins wandering the plains. In his pride he refuses to go to his son Saburo to seek asylum or refuge. The decisions made in his life now haunt him. Faced with the aftermath of his actions, the old man teeters on the brink of insanity.

The movie is masterfully put together. Costuming is excellent: while I cannot speak to its authenticity, it seems appropriate to that region and time. The colors of the various warring factions radiate vibrantly against the muted backgrounds. Cinematography furthers the story rather than existing solely to look pretty: a barren landscape with Hidetora running across represents his isolation in madness and guilt; strong winds, a Kurosawa staple, parallel the anxiety and anticipation of battle; and the seemingly indestructible castles, all too easily besieged, demonstrate how little our own established security can truly protect us.

And then there's the blood spurting in bright red splashes. Monty Python has nothing on this movie in its portrayal of open wounds. This cannot be a realistic portrayal of blood, but perhaps a representation of the level of hatred and betrayal evidenced throughout the story. If you are at all squeamish about such things, be forewarned.

The themes of the movie -- family, betrayal, blind ambition, and guilt -- are all things we deal with today. Even if one of these does not apply directly to us, we probably know someone to whom it does apply. The universality of these issues forces us to relate to these characters in a realistic way, even with some sympathy. Matthew 16:26 springs to mind: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (NASB). What indeed are we willing to sacrifice: family? friends? ourselves? And more importantly, to what purpose?
- Jack Curl
February 2003
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