Must-See Film: Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece “RAN”


Remember reading Shakespeare’s King Lear in high school? I did and thought it was a pretty memorable cautionary tale of how power can corrupt and result in epic tragedy.  But, it wasn’t until I saw master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa‘s stunning “RAN”, a film inspired by King Lear, that I was deeply impacted by the story of loyalty & betrayal.

If you’re a fan of the great Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998), then you surely love Seven Samurai (1954) & Yojimbo(1961) – two of Kurosawa’s better known films in a career in which he directed 30 films over the span of 57 years.  He was revered and celebrated for his work – George Lucas has said that Star Wars was influenced by Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress –  and in 1990, Kurosawa accepted the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.


Arguably one of film’s most important filmmakers, Kurosawa is noted for his pioneering cinematography including the axial cut (a “jump cut” used to make a subject move closer, or farther from the camera, it was used to great effect in the opening scene of Seven Samurai); “cutting on motion” (depicting one action in two or more separate shots to create a greater emotional effect) and his signature “wipe” (scene transition used in place of a dissolve or cut – was popular in silent films).

Kurosawa’s style was dynamic, bold and saturated in colour – and never was this more evident than in 1985′s epic spectacle, RAN – the film which Kurosawa himself called his best picture.

RAN was Kurosawa’s last epic film and it’s budget of $12 million dollars was the largest ever for a Japanese motion picture.  Dialogue is spare in RAN, colour was more significant and employed in the costuming to identify characters and emotional landscapes (costume designer Emi Wada won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design) – most notably the protagonist Hidetora’s 3 warring sons’ costumes are three different colours –  yellow (Taro – 1st son), red (Jiro – 2nd son) and blue (Saburo – 3rd son). Their individual armies also carry flags in the son’s colour. Hidetora, the doomed patriarch warlord protagonist, wears white (interestingly, the colour of death in Asian society).


Along with the searing use of colour, Kurosawa’s intricate cinematography and grand, sweeping landscapes create one of the most visually stunning and emotionally stirring films to ever depict man’s destructive tendencies.



“What I was trying to get at in Ran, and this was there from the script stage, was that the gods or God or whoever it is observing human events is feeling sadness about how human beings destroy each other, and powerlessness to affect human beings’ behaviour.” ~ Akira Kurosawa

RAN’s unique, epic storytelling, far-reaching cinematic impact and utter awesomeness, make it one of Different Is Cool’s “Must-See Films”.