Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kurosawa's Dagger Speech

Throne of Blood [Kumonosu jô (The Castle of the Spider’s Web)]. Dir. Akira Kurosawa. Perf. Isuzu Yamada and Toshirô Mifune. 1957. DVD. Criterion, 2003.

If you think that Diana Rigg's Regan is bone-chilling, try Asaji, the Lady Macbeth analogue in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. Her slow departure into the darkness and her return with the drugged wine to give the soldiers is thrilling ("thrilling" in its older, more spine-tingling sense).

The dagger speech itself is also astonishing. Actually, "speech" is something of a misnomer. The sense of the speech is completely internalized! Washizu (the Macbeth analogue) has to express it all without saying a word. Watch:

And the entire film is as brilliant—as stunning—as flabbergasting as that scene. If, somehow, you've missed it, watch the rest at once. At once!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Andi Lynes said...

Hello, Professor!
I came across your blog today while scouring the Internet for a variety of Macbeth "dagger" speeches to show my students, who have chosen that soliloquy to learn.

I first saw Throne of Blood in a Rhetoric of Film class at the University of Massachusetts in 1972. Since then I have occasionally watched scenes or. sections of it in preparation for teaching it to my high school Brit Lit classes. When I began teaching the play for a Humanities seminar this spring, I bought the film on Amazon and watched it in its entirety again. I was amazed at how much of the film -- including details of gesture and set -- has stuck with me. A lot of that has to do with the pace of scenes such as this one. I agree that Isuzu Yamada is amazing as Asaji.

Thank you for your introduction to this scene. I will certainly show it in class.

kj said...

Thanks, Andi Lynes!

Yes, every frame is a marvel. Cinematographically, the scene where the fog lifts from the castle as the Banquet and the Macbeth analogues discuss what the apparition in the forest told them and the scene that corresponds to Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane could not have been better done.

I hope your students appreciate that scene in particular!

Take care!

kj (Bardfilm)

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest