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15 - Kurosawa’s Shakespeare: Mute Heavens, Merging Worlds or the Metaphors of Cruelty

from Part IV - Directors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2020

Russell Jackson
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

This chapter addresses aspects of the trans-cultural or merging process at play in Kurosawa’s three Shakespeare adaptations Kumonosu-j / Macbeth (1957), The Bad Sleep Well / Hamlet (1960) and Ran / King Lear (1985) in terms of narrative and thematic parallels, correspondences from local models to Shakespearean ones and symbolic collusions. For each film, the mode of representation is suggestive rather than literal. The play-film dialectical effects never produce the same pessimistic discourse as in the model text, but one essentially of the same nature and depth. Narrative shifts, radical dialogues transformations allow the necessary adjustments and seamless coalescence between Japanese cultural contexts and Shakespeare worlds. Thematic parallels highlight similar circular, tragic patterns. Various techniques and aesthetics (Noh, painterly effects) blend with the sheer cinematic to depict a dark human saga in realistic worlds verging on symbolism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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