“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.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Japanese Films
- Kurosawa Films
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this sumptuous epic film by master director Akira Kurosawa is long and “slow but not boring; however, it’s not all that engrossing because Kurosawa doesn’t really explore what’s going through the thief’s mind as he discovers he has noble qualities worthy of a great leader.” As Peary points out, “Kurosawa is more interested in pageantry, and his shots of mammoth armies… on the attack are astonishing”, making “marvelous” use of color. However, “Kurosawa is not interested in glorifying the battle”; indeed, a “major theme of the movie is that great leaders… defend their domains, while weak leaders… cross borders to wage war and annex territory.” While I’m not a fan of the film’s over-long battle scenes, there are some truly impressive shots of enormous armies — “with weapons, horses, [and] banners” — crowding the colorful landscape, and Kagemusha remains visually engaging throughout.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Nakadai’s masterful performances as both Shingen and the thief
- 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
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.
- Foreign Gem
- Historically Relevant
- Important Director