Fort Augustus
Throne of Blood

Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1957, 110 mins, Cert PG

Screening at: Cawdor, Wed 5th August, 9pm

Still from the movieIn Japanese feudal times, a loyal Samurai, Washizu, is told by a forest spirit that he will become Lord of a great castle. His icily calculating wife, Lady Washizu, plots the murder of the existing Lord, so that her husband can ascend to the throne. Both are haunted by their misdeeds.

King Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor, died in 1057. Exactly 350 years later, Monk Andrew of Wyntoun fancified his life in Cronykil. Exactly 200 years after that, Shakespeare shrouded that life in more mist and tightened its dramaturgy. Exactly 350 years after Shakespeare, the great Japanese director changed Macbeth’s name to Washizu, cast Toshiro Mifune as him, stuck close to the play’s narrative but replaced Shakespeare’s language with some of the most majestic visuals the screen had ever seen.

The adaptation is by Shinobu Hashimoto, who wrote Rashomon and The Seven Samurai for Kurosawa. Writer and director both were fascinated by chivalry, the enthroning instinct, so we see the full turmoil of Macbeth/Washizu as he strides or rages, trying not to give in to lust for power. Meanwhile, Lady Washizu is filmed with great stillness, like the haunting forest spirit.

The chain of connections between a real Scottish King and a Japanese movie king-maker is complex indeed. Where else to rattle it than in beautiful Cawdor itself?

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