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Ran (1985)

aka Ran

Directed By: 
Details: 162 mins · Japanese · R (USA)


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No_movie_poster Lord Hidetora Ichimonji
Small Taro Takatora Ichimonji
No_movie_poster Jiro Masatora Ichimonji
No_movie_poster Saburo Naotora Ichimonji
No_movie_poster Shuri Kurogane
No_movie_poster Samon Shirane
No_movie_poster Mondo Naganuma
No_movie_poster Tango Hirayama
No_movie_poster Lady Kaede


Small Akira Kurosawa Director
Small William Shakespeare Theatre Play
No_movie_poster Hideo Oguni Screenplay
No_movie_poster Masato Ide Screenplay
No_movie_poster Asakazu Nakai Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Serge Silberman Producer
No_movie_poster Tôru Takemitsu Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Masato Hara Producer
No_movie_poster Takao Saitô Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Shôji Ueda Director of Photography
Small Akira Kurosawa Writer
Small William Shakespeare Story Contributor
Small Akira Kurosawa Editing


Ran tells of the downfall of the once-powerful Ichimonji clan after its patriarch Hidetora decides to give control of his kingdom up to his three sons: Taro, Jiro, and Saburo. Taro, the eldest, will receive the prestigious First Castle and become leader of the Ichimonji clan, while Jiro and Saburo will be given the Second and Third Castles. Hidetora will retain the title of Great Lord and Jiro and Saburo are to support Taro. Hidetora tries to illustrate this by using a lesson based on a parable of Mori Motonari. He preaches how one arrow could be broken easily but three arrows together could not. However, Saburo smashes the three arrows across his knee and calls the lesson stupid. Saburo tells his father that he foolishly expects his sons to be loyal to him. Hidetora mistakes these comments for a threat; and, when his servant Tango comes to Saburo's defense, he banishes both of them. Later, Fujimaki, a warlord who had witnessed these events, invites Saburo to his dominions and offers him his daughter to marry.

Following Hidetora's abdication, Taro's wife Lady Kaede begins pushing for Taro to take direct control of the Ichimonji clan, and engineers a rift between Taro and Hidetora. Lady Kaede resents Hidetora for massacring her family in a previous war and forcing her to marry Taro. Matters come to a head when Hidetora kills one of Taro's guards who was threatening his fool Kyoami. When Taro subsequently demands that Hidetora renounce his title of Great Lord, Hidetora storms out of the castle. He then travels to Jiro's castle, only to discover that Jiro is more interested in using Hidetora as a pawn in his own power play. Hidetora and his escort leave Jiro's castle to wander, finding no food in the villages abandoned by the peasants. Eventually Tango appears with provisions. In a moment of anger Hidetora orders his escort to burn the villages down. Tango intervenes and Hidetora learns from him of Taro's decree: death to whomever aids his father. Hidetora journeys thus to the Third Castle, which had been abandoned after Saburo's forces followed their lord into exile. Tango and Kyoami do not follow him.

They take shelter in the castle only to be ambushed by the combined forces of Taro and Jiro. In a horrific massacre that is the centerpiece of the film, all of Hidetora's bodyguards fall in battle, two of his concubines stab each other to death in a mutual suicide, the others are shot during the storming, and the castle is set on fire. Hidetora is left to commit seppuku. However, to his dismay, Hidetora's sword has been broken and he cannot. Instead of killing himself, Hidetora has a psychotic episode and wanders away from the burning castle, his attackers unable to kill him because of their low status and too awe-struck by his transformation to stop him. As Taro and Jiro's forces storm the castle, Jiro's general Kurogane assassinates Taro by shooting him down in the confusion of the battle.

Hidetora is discovered wandering in the wilderness by Tango and Kyoami, who along with Saburo remain the only people still loyal to him. They take refuge in a peasant's home only to discover that the occupant is Tsurumaru, the brother of Lady Sué (Hidetora's daughter-in-law), whom Hidetora had ordered blinded years before. Upon his return from battle, Jiro begins having an affair with Lady Kaede, who quickly becomes the power behind his throne. Lady Kaede demands that Jiro kill his wife Lady Sué, and marry her instead. Kurogane is given the order but he pointedly refuses and cleverly warns Jiro not to trust his mistress. Instead Kurogane warns Sué and Tsurumaru to flee. They eventually reach their former home, a ruined castle that Hidetora had destroyed in an earlier war. What remains of the former Great Lord Ichimonji's party hides out in the ruins of this same castle.

At one point Tango chases two men from Hidetora's bodyguard who he discovers had betrayed their former master. As Tango fights and kills the two traitors, one of them says that Jiro is talking of trying to hunt down and kill Hidetora. Hidetora is terrified to meet his youngest son, so Tango rides off to bring Saburo to Hidetora instead. Kyoami stays to assist the mad man. In his madness Hidetora is haunted by horrific visions of the people he destroyed in his quest for power. The insanity finally becomes too much for him to bear; eluding his servant, he flees into the wilderness.

With Hidetora's location a mystery and his plight now known, Saburo's army crosses back into the kingdom to find him. Alarmed at what he suspects is treachery by Saburo and by the entry of two rival warlords on Saburo's side, Jiro hastily mobilizes his army to stop them. The two forces meet on the field of Hachiman. Sensing a major battle, Saburo's new patron Fujimaki marches to the border. Another rival warlord, Ayabe, also shows up with his own army. After arranging a truce with Jiro, Saburo rides off to find Hidetora. Against the advice of Kurogane, Jiro orders an attack, and his forces are decimated by arquebus fire from Saburo's army, who had fled into the nearby wilderness for cover. In the middle of the battle, word reaches Jiro and Kurogane that Ayabe has slipped away with much of his army and is marching on the First Castle. Jiro's army promptly disintegrates and flees back to the castle.

In the end, Saburo finds Hidetora. The two are reunited and Hidetora comes to his senses. However, Saburo is shot and killed by snipers that Jiro had sent out earlier. Overcome with grief, Hidetora dies, marking the end of the Ichimonji clan.

When Kurogane hears that Lady Sué has been finally murdered by one of Jiro's men, Kurogane beheads Lady Kaede after she admits that all of her actions were to avenge herself against the Ichimonji clan and destroy it.

Jiro, Kurogane, and all Jiro's men die in the battle with Ayabe's army that follows.

The film ends with a shot of Tsurumaru, blind and alone, on top of the ruined castle. Narrowly avoiding falling from the precipice, he accidentally drops the scroll of Buddha which his sister had given to him.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1985-12-20 : United States of America

DVD : 1998-08-10