Compare the two, which is better, and for what reason.
I prefer Ran much more. One reason is it condemns Hidetora (Lear). It does not make him some grand hero, but shows the reality of war. It is not heroic, it is brutal. Also three sons work much better than 3 daughters. Also the story is better constructed. And it works better than the play structure Shakespeare used.
But Stewart … without LEAR there wouldn’t BE a RAN
I never saw King Lear as a grand hero, maybe in the past, but his perception is so skewed it’s impossible to view him as a straight-up good guy. Otherwise how would he miss Cordelia’s sentiment?
Ran is a great film, and I don’t think there will ever be a better film adaptation of King Lear. However, Lear works within the constructs of a play and so is a very different beast, but one as artistically valid as its movie counterpart.
For those that think Ran is automatically superior to ‘any’ other film version of King Lear, please see Peter Brook’s King Lear with Paul Scofield. To me, this version captures the heart of the drama unflinchingly. I enjoy Ran immensely, but only co-incidentally because it is a take-off of Lear. Like Kurosawa’s other Shakespeare rip-offs, it is a creative re-construction, but never a replacement of the original. If you know about Kurosawa’s own veneration for the old master, he would cringe at any suggestion his own versions were in any way ‘superior’ to the master’s
O! look upon me, Sir,
And hold you hand in benediction o’er me.
No, Sir, you must not kneel.
Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks I should know you and know this man;
Yet I am doubtful: for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is, and the skill I have
Remembers not these garments; nor I know not
Where I did lodge last night. Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.
Cor. And so I am, I am.
Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.
Cor. No cause, no cause.
Shakespeare achieved more with those four simple words “I am” and “no cause” than Kurosawa did burning a million dollar set to the ground. I like Ran, but it’s like a kid’s version of King Lear.
I agree with Bob. The Brook/Scofield is excellent, following the text with only a few abridgements. The way Brooks handled the tempest scene, relying on lighting effects, is so much more intelligent than drowning the actors out with the sound effects of the storm (see the otherwise good Gielgud production for an example of a poor treatment of the tempest scene). For a full text version, the 1982 BBC production by Jonathan Miller is excellent. The Brooks is more movie-like, the Miller more like stage production, two equally valid approaches.
That line of dialogue is just stretching a situation, its lines are not for emphasis. Plus Ran is so much more than Lear, it explores the personalities of all its characters and shows a broader range of humanity.
Ran works better as a film than King Lear(even the magnificent Russian version, because Ran is a film, and Lear is a play). For all of Shakespeare’s mastery of the English language, and his understanding of the human psychy and how well he portrays it, many of his plots, like the plot in King Lear, are too mechanical and clunky for film. His plays do not have the naturall ebb and flow that a film needs to move properly. It works on a stage, and it even works on the printed page, because Shakespeare is the greatest of all poets. But I think that his plays just don’t translate all that well to the screen. Welles is the only person who can pull it off with minimal editing.
Jason, I agree with you 100%. King Lear is meant to function as a play, and works brilliantly as such. But Ran is made for film, and being made by one of the greatest directors of all time, it functions as film much better than a straight Lear adaptation could. And I’ve seen Brooks’, and prefer Ran, myself.
Keep in mind it would be pointless to translate Shakespeare poetry into another language (Japanese, no less). Kurosawa was smart and poetic enough to create the poetry of King Lear’s tragedy through means of his own, instead of just borrowing Shakespeare’s. Not so long ago I saw MacBeth performed by a polish company in a street performance. They cut off 80 percent of the dialogues, and rewrote some as well. But they managed to express the conflicts through body language, images, and a smart use of scenery and objects. The three witches didn’t say a single word, nor did Hecate, yet the terror of Shakespeare’s original language was still there. So it proves much more effective to create new means of expression, instead of translating a rigidly fixed text. I don’t think Shakespeare thought of theater this way either, on the contrary I think he was aware that plays are lively things that can’t be made to reproduce themselves over and over sistematically. It is well known that he actually rewrote many plays from themes that already existed before (King Lear, is supposed to based on a mythological celtic king).
I don’t know why, but for some reason i thought you were comparing Godard’s King Lear. lol