Akira Kurosawa’s Macbeth adaptation screens on 35mm at UW Cinematheque on April 7.
Among the countless cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth over the years, Akira Kurosawa’s Throne Of Blood (1957) stands out as the most unorthodox, transplanting the bard’s classic fable of ruthless political ambition from medieval Scotland to feudal Japan. In conjunction with University Theatre’s upcoming production of Macbeth (April 20 through 30), UW Cinematheque is theatrically presenting this atmospheric, dreamlike, and visually striking period drama on 35mm.
The legendary Toshiro Mifune portrays a seasoned samurai warrior, Taketoki Washizu, who finds himself entangled in a self-fulfilling prophecy after securing an important victory on the battlefield. Upon returning to their lord’s castle through Spider’s Web Forest, Washizu and his friend, Yoshiaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki), encounter a spectral soothsayer who portends their futures. As in the Scottish play, Kurosawa’s retelling follows a decorated soldier who reluctantly murders his sovereign and ascends to power at the behest of his shrewd, manipulative spouse (Isuzu Yamada).
Kurosawa was especially attracted to Macbeth, once calling it his “favorite Shakespeare.” He preserves the essence of the bard’s play, while elevating it to new aesthetic and cultural heights. Shot on Mount Fuji, Throne Of Blood conjures a timeless, otherworldly landscape enshrouded in mist and dense fog as the tragedy of its antihero unfolds. Intricately weaving the literary source material with stylized elements of Noh theater, exquisite attention to historical detail, and modern filmmaking techniques, Kurosawa creates a poetic, universal meditation on the human condition. With regard to his cinema, the director has stated, “When I look at Japanese history—or the history of the world for that matter—what I see is how man repeats himself over and over again.”