Ran is a 1985 film directed by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Lord Hidetora Ichimonji who decided to step down from his leadership giving power to his three son Taro, Jiro, and Saburo. The eldest Taro is granted the head of the clan while his two sibling Jiro the second eldest and Saburo the youngest is to aid Taro in helping hand when needed. Saburo warns his father of the danger in the future, while his brothers flatter their father with words. Saburo is banish from the clan after not agreeing with his father of his haste decision and being too upfront with his words. Matter turns worst after Taro and Jiro corrupted and turn against Lord Hidetora giving him no power or authority within the castles. War between father and son soon came when Taro and his brother Jiro teamed up and annihilated what’s left of the third castle and of his loyal followers. Power, greed and revenge turns a united family and country into a self destructive warfare amongst each other. Being a filial son Saburo came back to save his father from his power hungry brother, but tragedy struck as there is no happy ending in a warfare environment.


Scene Analysis

Kurogane(on the left) sarcastically compared the fox to Kaene(middle) telling Jiro(right) to be careful of Kaene.

Jiro follower Kurogane brought in a statue of a fox head instead of Sues head after taking an order from Jiro and Kaede who is Taro wife. Kaede wants to become Jiro wife and not a concubine after Jiro has gain Taro territory after his death. Fox tales is a common myth throughout Asia of them being able to possess women or shape shifting into human forms. The fox head brought in by Kurogane in this scene is a mockery toward Kaede calling her mischievous and manipulating which is the characteristic of foxes. Throughout Asia the belief that fox spirit possesses or transform into women and target variety of men such as greedy, proud to poor and nobles. Kurogane soon explain to Jiro the downfall of multiple leaders throughout Asia and evil deed of seducing women just like Kaede and should not be taking orders from such women. In Japan fox demon or spirit are called Kitsune which stand for fox, which was called out by Kurogane in this scene a couple of time. Kitsune are believed to be intelligent and possessed special magical powers which only target men as their victims. Kurogane sarcastically acted surprise when Kaede open the cloth and a statue of kitsune popped out and accused that statue was actually Sue‘s head. Kitsune often show their true self when they die or when body parts are dismembered.

Scene Analysis 2
Lord Hideora breaks his katana in attempt to defend himself against Taro and Jiro soldiers, but breaks in one strike.

In this scene Lord Hidetora tries to defend against the invasion from his sons army. Hidetora is seen unsheathing his katana and throws down a strike on a soldier head. The katana breaks by the handle making it useless and forcing Lord Hidetora to retreat into the castle. Every warfare character in this film each possess their own katana which also represent their own life. In this scene Lord Hidetora sword breaks with one strike on a soldier who is nothing to him compared to his former status. This is a symbol of how weak Lord Hidetora is now and how defenseless he is against an underling. The katana is also a symbol of his old age, such as old katana can rust and become dull. Another symbol is not taking care of the katana properly which can cause the katana to be damage and weak. Maintaining katana should be oiled, inspected and giving fresh air to prevent mold or rust. This can also mean Lord Hidetora hasn’t fight in ages and nobody took care of him throughout his life, which what he wanted to do, but was betrayed by his two eldest son.

Scene Analysis 3
Lord Hideora walks out of the burning castle looking like a ghost or spirit.

In this scene Lord Hidetora walks out of the burning castle very pale and disorientated after an attack sent by his own two son Taro and Jiro. Lord Hidetora walks out from the thick smog within the castle with his pale face resembling a ghost like figured. In this scene all men from Taro and Jiro are mercilessly trying to kill Hidetora, but now no one dares to kill him and lets him walk off free. It could be that they believed Hidetora had died in the fire and it was his ghost form that walked out. By the way he dress in all white and his paled face gives him that ghost-like figure look which could explain why everyone back off. Back in that time people are superstitious and believe in the supernatural, so a reason for not attacking is that they might not want to be haunted after trying to kill what is left of Hidetora. In this scene obviously Hidetora went mad and is disorientated, but nobody tried to kill him for unknown reason. It could be the possibility of showing mercy and pity for someone who use to be high ranking to turn into a nobody within days or just plain superstitious belief. For example, when the soldier chased after Hidetora and about to kill him with the rifles, six of his concubine shielded themselves to protect him. With that specific scene, the soldier might not have shown any mercy, so why did no one tried to kill him in the end? Another theory could be because he went mad and no one felt he is a threat anymore.

Reocurring Theme
Lord Hidetora is reminded of what he did in the past just by looking at Sue, yet he is too ashame to look at her becuase of the crime he inflicted on her family.

One of the theme that keeps coming up is the history of Lord Hidetora doing. There are no flashback nor any specific details about it, but we keep hear about the past of him burning down Sue’s castle and destroying her whole family. From what the movie tells, Hidetora burn down Sue’s castle kill her whole family and married her off to his second son Jiro. Her only blood related family left is her brother whose life was spared in exchange for both of his eyes. Scenes of Hidetora stumbling across the leftover of the old castle, which is a reminder of Hidetora evil deeds. Throughout the movie, there is constant reminder of the past such as when Hidetora visit Sue, stumbling across Sue’s blind brother, and unintentionally visited the old burn down castle.

Kaene reminds Taro of the past how his father has massacre her family. She holds a Grudge for Hidetora only and not Taro even though he is Hidetora son.

Kaede also has a back story where she has deep grudge for Hidetora. Kaede talks to Taro about always wanting revenge and how much hatred she has toward Hidetora for taking over the castle that is righteously belong to her family to begin with. Kaede reminds Taro of how Hidetora killed her father and brother for letting their guard down. Her mother suicide in her room and she was married off to Taro as a result Kaede long waited for Hidetora to fall which she took part in persuading Taro to do so.

Exhausted Hidetora stumbles across Sue and her blind brother. The setting takes place at Sue's burn down castle which Hidetora himself destroyed.

What Akira Kurosawa is trying to achieved by showing us this is that Hidetora doesn’t deserved any pity and this is his retribution for his own sin. Throughout the movie it feels like Hidetora betrayal by his own flesh would make the viewer feel sorry or sadness for this man, but reminding of his past is a great way to tell the viewer he did deserved what was coming. He did hideous crime to two different families, in return his two son betrayal was his retribution for his evil doing.

Fun Fact: Ran was the highest budget movie with 11.5 million production cost. It was also the highest production movie at that time in Japan. There were 1,400 extra cast plus uniforms and amours all total to make the battle and marching scene very realistic.