Shrouds of mist rise over a stark landscape as two horseman ride towards us – it can only be Macbeth, and it is, at least the basic plot. But in this 1957 film, shot in black and white, Akira Kurosawa has moved the action from 11th century Scotland to feudal Japan.
Returning to their lords castle through ghostly Spiders Web forest, samurai warriors Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) encounter a spirit who predicts their futures. Firstly Washizu will become Lord of the Northern Garrison, secondly he will become Lord of Spiders Web Castle and thirdly Miki’s son will succeed him. When the first part of the spirits prophecy comes true, Washizu’s scheming wife, Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), urges him to speed up the rest of the prophecy by murdering his lord and usurping his place. Fed by his wife’s thirst for status, his own ambition and sense of insecurity see him transformed from a respected warrior to a power mad dictator, willing to do anything to retain the throne.
Continue reading “A Film For November: Throne of Blood”
Now 37, Toru Watanabe arrives in Germany on business and as the plane touches down an orchestral version of the Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ plays from the speakers. As always he’s reminded of his beautiful, fragile friend Naoko and their time together in Tokyo 18 years earlier, when in the late 60’s he was a student, Norwegian Wood was her favourite song and they were both coming to terms with the death of their best friend, Kizuki.
This is an intimate book, a tight cast of characters surround Toru, as he negotiates the confusion of moving on with his life and the deep sorrow that he feels. Naoko is beautiful but emotionally fragile and spends much of the novel in a mountainside psychiatric hospital, where she becomes close friends with her room mate Reiko a talented musician. Nagasawa is a student friend who, despite having a long term girlfriend, has a habit of trailing bars for one night stands, a habit that starts to include Toru and then there’s Midori, Naoko’s complete opposite. She’s a free spirit, impetuous and alive to adventure and could be his future.
Continue reading “Norwegian Wood”