Saturday, November 06, 2010


The film Ran (chaos), by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, is a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear but introduces original elements such as the ruthless hi-brow Lady Kaede, whose thirst for revenge plunges the world around her into strife and mayhem.

The story world first begins to descend into chaos when the autocratic warlord in charge decides to abdicate power to his cruel and power-hungry older children. Blinded by ego, he rewards their flattery and exiles those who try to show him the truth, including his youngest child.

King Lear and Ran have both been seen as nihilistic because the chaos and ensuing suffering envelops good and bad characters indiscriminately. However, if seen as a tale of Self-realisation through the deflation of ego, the suffering is not without purpose, and the end is not entirely tragic.

Perhaps the most poignantly tragic figure in Ran is the young lord Tsurumaru, whose family is destroyed when the warlord burns down their castle. Eventually he loses his surviving sister, Lady SuĂ©, a devout Buddhist who is able to forgive the warlord for the ruin of her family.

The film ends with a shot of Tsurumaru, blind and alone on top of the ruined castle, the only survivor of the film's events. Stumbling on the precipice he loses the icon of Amida Buddha his sister has given him for spiritual comfort. Even the gods have abandoned him it seems. Yet, in the often painful stripping away of externals, the Self remains unchanged, here symbolised by the radiant Enlightened One, the witness of the world's endless flux.

No comments: