quarta-feira, 27 de abril de 2016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot, THRONE OF BLOOD (1957)

Este post foi escrito para a série Hit Me With Your Best Shot do blogue The Film Experience de NathanielR, sendo que é aqui apresentado em inglês, ao invés do que é usual neste blogue.

I’m sorry if this post is shorter than usual but I really don’t have the time to take any more screencaps or examine the film further. I didn’t even have time to fully rewatch Throne of Blood, but, thankfully, this is one of the film’s I suggested to Nathaniel in one of the posts where our grandmaster of film blogging asked for suggestions. One of the many reasons I suggested it was the fact I already knew which shot I’d choose.

As someone with a degree in Theatre, my heart has a special place dedicated to William Shakespeare, with Macbeth in a position of utmost reverence. For its brevity, its atmospheric verse and its difficult, and often complexly confusing, characterizations, I have always loved the damned thing. One of the main focuses of my adoration is Lady Macbeth, one of the Bard’s most celebrated characters, as well as one of his most controversial ones. Many interpretations of her have been brought to both stage and screen (and perhaps other mediums), and Shakespeare’s original intentions have been endlessly scrutinized, subverted and reinterpreted in academic texts, so much so that it’s very easy to let Lady Macbeth turn into something of an abstraction. Sometimes, she’s more idea than person, more conceptual experiment than an actual human presence.

This can be both used to a film’s advantage or not. For example, Kurzel and Cotillard’s recent interpretation is one that grounds the character into a very viscerally human sense of interior desolation, while Judi Dench’s TV version is an example of someone completely dominating the Shakespearean text and managing to present her as both concept and woman. Still, having all of this into account, my favorite take on the character, and on the play as a whole, has always been and, I suspect, it will always be Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. With that said, here’s my choice for best shot:

Best Shot

While he strips his film’s screenplay of Anglo-Saxon linguistic lyricism, Kurosawa injects into the tragedy of Macbeth an incredible sensorial expressiveness of poetic dimensions by placing it in mystic version of feudal japan. This is one of Shakespeare’s plays where the author most exacerbates and refers to the lighting conditions, the sounds of nature, or the weather that rages on the outside of the interior settings, so it makes sense that the great Japanese master would take this opportunity and run with it And run with it he did, with glorious consequences.

In this shot, Lady Asaji is seen going into the shadows, and latter returning with a vase of wine, with which she will drug the guards that stand in the way her husband’s homicidal mission. In this very moment, this master of suggestion and matrimonial puppeteering is becoming an active accomplice of the evils she’s been germinating in her husband’s mind. This is no longer a game of theoretic intentions, but one of murderous deeds, and she looks amazing while doing so, like specter of doom coming from hell itself.

She is the one that opens the door from which the darkness comes as you can see in the previous shot. The shadows of deadly ambition are almost magically summoned by her will, and then, after bringing them into her fold, she immerses herself in them, she glides purposefully into their dark oblivion. Almost immediately after her pale figure has been wholly consumed, she appears again. Once more she glides, elegantly positioned right at the center of the shot, for she may be bringing chaos into this world, but she does it from a standpoint of unnatural order and demonic certainty, with her eyes almost piercing the audience with their intensity directed at the camera.

Still, I would be lying if I said I only picked this shot for its visual splendor. Actually, more than the immersion and subsequent emergence from the shadows, what completely seared this moment into my mind, since the first time I watched the film many years ago, was its sound. Along the film, Lady Asaji’s presence is always announced by the sound of her many silks brushing against each other, her movements bringing with them a serene storm of subtle, but menacing little sounds. As she comes out of the darkness, the frame is filled with her whiteness once more, and with the vitality of her movement, but in Isuzu Yamada’s perfect poise and expression and in the menacing sound, such image cannot be taken as anything but an ominous nightmare coming in our direction.

I know it’s not the most complex view of this iconic character, it might actually be one of its most simplistically evil, but it sure is memorable and it has haunted me since the day I first laid eyes (and ears) on it. It might have actually been this moment that turned me into a devotee of Japanese cinema. How can I not love it then, I ask you?

4 comentários:

  1. LOVE this. I also studied theater in college, and even got to study Noh, the theater tradition from which Kurosawa took inspiration for the staging of Throne of Blood. Lady Asaji is such a perfectly Japanese/Noh expression of Lady Macbeth that I can not imagine a better, more frightening take on the character. I chose this shot, too. It's so perfect, and iconic.

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    2. Like you, I also studied Noh and love it dearly. When, for one of my final projects, I had to conceive the staging, set and costume design of a famous portuguese tragedy, I took inspiration from this film and its use of Noh tradition.

      And yes, it's an amazing shot, and your justification of it is beautiful. In fact, all the shots with Lady Asaji are amazing, especially, at least to me, because of the way she moves through the space, in methodical, studied and unnervingly theatrical movements. I always found the contrast in body language between her and Mifune to be one of the film's strangest and most glorious stylistic choices.

  2. so happy to read these things and learn new things. Lady Macbeth is obviously one of the greatest characters in theater and I love that she barely seems human here, and her husband all too human.

    The one moment that complicates the performance and the interpretation the most is the way she seems to panic staring at the long since dried blood stains in the silent chamber, as if she's seeing the entire rest of the movie (aka her life) in it... but she still moves into the darkness as soon as she regains her composure.