“It is not easy to suppress yourself to become another.”
Based on a true episode from Japanese feudal history, this film tells the story of a lowly thief (Tatsuya Nakadai) who is hired to impersonate clan leader Shingen (also played by Nakadai) upon his death.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this visually sumptuous, epic film by master director Akira Kurosawa is long and slow but never boring — though also not quite as engrossing as some of his earlier, more intimate films. I agree with Peary that the story could have benefited from a closer focus on the thief’s personal transformation as he learns to act with leadership and nobility. In addition, I’ve always been bored by over-long battle scenes, and this movie is full of them; indeed, Kurosawa’s main focus, as Peary points out, seems to be to represent the pageantry of war. With that said, there are some truly impressive shots of mammoth armies, with soldiers, weapons, banners, and horses crowding the colorful landscape.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Kagemusha Shingen interacting with “his” playful grandson
- Stunning cinematography and colors
- Impressive, geometric scenes of wartime pageantry
- Colorful sets and costumes
- The comic relief provided by three bumbling spies, who are continually unsure whether Shingen is alive or dead
- Nakadai’s masterful performances as both Shingen and the thief
Yes. While I don’t believe it’s one of his most compelling tales, Kagemusha still belongs squarely in the realm of “must see” films by Kurosawa.