Ran (1985)

Director: Akira Kurosawa Cinematographer: Takao Saito, Masaharu Ueda, Asakazu Nakai

Considered by many to be director Akira Kurosawa’s later life masterpiece, Ran is a version of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in sixteenth century feudal Japan.

Made possible by more of the overseas funding that helped reignite Kurosawa’s career in the 1970s and 80s, Ran tells the story of the ageing Warlord Hidetora Ichimonji who makes the decision to retire from his position as head of his family faction and split his kingdom between his three sons. Tragedy follows amid a visual splendour that helped to reinforce Kurosawa’s reputation as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.

StudioCanal Collection [Blu-ray]
The Criterion Collection (DVD)
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
POSTER Movie (27 x 40 Inches – 69cm x 102cm) (1985) (Japanese Style A)
1985 Italian Locandina Poster
Original Screenplay & Storyboards of the Academy Award-Winning Film (Paperback)
1985 Japanese B2 Poster
(Polish) 11×17 Movie Poster (1985)



Tatsuya Nakadai Ichimonji Hidetora
Akira Terao Ichimonji “Taro” Takatora
Jinpachi Nezu Ichimonji “Jiro” Masatora
Daisuke Ryu Ichimonji “Saburo” Naotora
Mieko Harada Lady Kaede
Yoshiko Miyazaki Lady Sue
Mansai Nomura Tsurumaru
Hisashi Igawa Kurogane
Peter Kyoami
Masayuki Yui Hirayama Tango
Kazuo Kato Ikoma Kageyu
Jun Tazaki Ayabe Seiji
Hitoshi Ueki Fujimaki Nobuhiro

Kurosawa first conceived of the idea that would become Ran in the mid-1970s, when he read about the Sengoku-era warlord Mōri Motonari who was famous for having three highly loyal sons. Kurosawa decided he could make a film that reversed their loyalty so that they would be antagonists of their father. It was only when deeper into the pre-planning period that Kurosawa became aware of King Lear and started to incorporate elements into the film.

Kurosawa’s Lear, played by Tatsuya Nakadai (Harakiri, Kagemusha) has clearly lived a life as a savage autocrat dominating his kingdom. In his arrogance he believes he can maintain his position in the minds of his own people and rival warlords,  keep together his band of retainers and continue to hold on to the emblems of command despite passing on power to his oldest son. He gives his three sons each a castle and believes that peace can reign between them. He dismisses the concerns of his youngest son and falls foul of the ambitions of his older two and particularly his daughter in law, the scheming Lady Kaede.

Ran is notable for its use of colour, academy award winning costume design, lyrical and often shattering imagery and the haunting Mahler inspired music. However it’s not just the overwhelming epic scale and brilliant cinematography, but also the clarity of it’s moral message and tragic logic that pushes the film so far beyond the reach of Hollywood’s attempts at large historical productions.

It seems that all the best parts of his earlier films like Seven SamuraiThrone of Blood, The Hidden Fortress and Kagemusha (something of a dry run for Ran) have come together to create some of the most arresting sequences cinema has ever seen.

With the sizeable cast and huge sets it’s easy to see why the film cost, a then Japanese record, $11 million to make. Ran remains one of the great achievements of world cinema. sjb.

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced by Serge Silberman, Masato Hara
Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide
Music by Toru Takemitsu
Cinematography Takao Saito, Masaharu Ueda, Asakazu Nakai
Edited by Akira Kurosawa
Running time 162 minutes
Country Japan, France
Language Japanese

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