Throne of Blood, 1957


{Theatrical Release Poster}

Two men are told a prophecy by a forest spirit and seek to ensure that the prophecy does and does not come true.

Background: This film is based on Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Washizu’s (Macbeth) death scene is actually shot with real arrows. The actor had to signal which way he was planning to run to the archers so they would no accidentally shoot him with arrows. Throne of Blood takes all the most successful elements of the play and puts them into a realistic screenplay. They keep the action of the play and leave out all the slow parts like the internal monologues (based on the theatrical Noh tradition).

Synopsis: Generals Miki and Washizu travel and get lost in the Spider Web forest on the way to their Lord’s castle, Spider Web Castle, following successfully defending their Lord’s lands from intruders. They meet a spirit who sings them prophecies of their future. At their Lord’s castle the first part of the prophecy becomes true. Washizu’s wife convinces Washizu to kill their Lord when he visits their home. They drug the guards, murder their Lord in his sleep, and then murder the guards after accusing them of murdering their Lord. The next day they deliver their Lord’s body to Spider Web Castle. Washizu becomes the new Lord and plans to name Miki’s son as his heir until he learns that his wife is pregnant. Instead of naming his heir, he hires men to kill Miki and his son. Washizu starts seeing visions of a dead Miki, and when the hired assassin returns Washizu is notified that though Miki was successfully killed, but Miki’s son escaped. Washizu’s lands and fortresses begin  being attacked by Miki’s son and other betrayed generals. Washizu seeks out the spirit in Spider Web forest to prophesize about his upcoming battle. Washizu believes he will win the battle. Washizu’s men rise against him and after accusing him of killing their true Lord, they kill him. Miki’s son storms the castle and takes it over.

My Thoughts: The subtitles were really hard to read since they were fast,  a reflection of the fastness of the dialogue being spoken. I thought the spirit was super fascinating- the spirit was totally white, and was spinning thread. I am curious to know the symbolism of this act in Japanese culture. It made it appear very whimsical in lieu of three traditional witches that are shown in Macbeth inspired stories. I appreciated the ending that I am sure reflected the values of Japan. It was not about the battle, but instead justice for the treason.

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