Kurosawa’s last great epic is a re-working of 'King Lear' with sons replacing the original’s daughters. The battle scenes are magnificently staged with impressive use of colour.

Like Kagemusha, Ran was only able to be financed with help from abroad, in this case France. Kurosawa’s last great epic film, this, like so many of his other films, is set in the 16th Century – but this time the director has drawn, once again, on Shakespeare for his inspiration, and the story is a re-working of 'King Lear', with the three daughters of the original replaced by three sons. Keeping the bare bones of the original, Kurosawa once again revels both in the pageantry and colour of his battle scenes and in the personal tragedies of the characters involved in what is obviously a pointless conflict. The word ‘ran’ means ‘war’ or sometimes ‘conflict’, but Kurosawa said at the time he was reaching back to the word’s older meaning – ‘chaos’.

It’s a pessimistic film in which the director’s constant theme – the difficulty of upholding human values – results in apocalyptic destruction. Of particular interest is the character of the Fool, who is played by Peter (Shinnosuke Ikehata), who at the time was well known as a cross dresser and singer. Again, Tatsuya Nakadai plays the leading role, that of the elderly ruler whose plans for transition to the next generation are foiled by greed and stupidity. 

- David Stratton

Please note, this screening will be of a digitally restored version of the film, and will be screened at Dendy Opera Quays cinema.   

A special discount package of all ten films in the retrospective is available for $130 + booking fee. Click here to book the Essential Kurosawa: Selected by David Stratton package.

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Ferve Tickets

Akira Kurosawa


162 mins

Japanese with English subtitles



Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide

Katsumi Furukawa, Masato Hara, Serge Silberman

Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Daisuke Ryu

Rights/DCP Source: Studiocanal