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Lady Kade and the Noh Performance in Kurosawa’s Ran

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Kurosawa’s Ran is a ‘glocal’ film which retells the Western King Lear story in an Eastern way; it localized the story by adding personal history to the characters and applying Japanese Noh elements to the way of acting. Ran has a similar plot design to King Lear but is not a straight adaptation of it. The parallel plot based on coincidence and theme in Shakespeare becomes a revenge plot related as cause and effect in Kurosawa. Kurosawa transfers the historical setting of the film from pre-Roman Britain to Medieval Japan.

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He enriches the Shakespeare play by adding a reason to King Lear’s suffering and Taro, Jiro and Lady Kaede’s evil; he also splits and combines some Shakespearean characters to create new ones; the Shakespearean language was also replaced by rewritten dialogues. In addition, the Noh influenced way of acting, which is featured by silence, emptiness and stillness has been crucial to the carving of characters. This essay will take Lady Kaede, the evil character as example, to analyze the change of plot and the influence of Noh in creating characters and acting styles.

Lady Kaede absorbs the evil of Goneril, Regan, and Edmund. Her position of the evil character which dominants the development of the tragedy in Ran resembles Edmund most; therefore I will analyze the convergence and divergence of Lady Kaede from Edmund. Lady Kaede is a female character who lacks access to political power and social status. She is implicitly compared by Kurogane to an evil fox-spirit, as her character is stereotyped with the only purpose of trying to destroy the Ichimonji clan to revenge for her family being massacred by Hidetora.

While Edmund is a male character whose access to political position is blocked by his half-brother, Edgar. His motivation of revenge comes from his status of the illegitimate child and being treated unequally with Edgar, he wants not only to destroy but also gain the status of the King for him own. Edmund is sought after by both Goneril and Regan. Lady Kaede, after Taro’s death, seduces his brother, Kiro, and seeks to replace his wife, Lady Sue.

Lady Kaede is coquettish and acrid, she speaks little but uses her actions, such as threatening to kill Jiro with a knife to force him listen to her, while Edmund is slick and sly, he uses tricky language to swindle the trust of other people and abet distrust between close relationships like father and son, sisters, and husband and wife. Lady Kaede uses sex and her position of wife or concubine to make Taro and Jiro listen to her, she sets their desire for power on fire to make the family kill each other.

While Edmund takes advantage of Goneril and Regan’s love for him to make them kill. Lady Kaede is prepared to die and feels satisfied about the success of the revenge, while Edmond’s inferiority clears up when he knows Goneril and Regan loved and died for him, therefore regrets for his revenge and wants to save Cordelia and Lear. Lady Kaede’s action has a clear revenge relationship with that of Hidetora, her present actions reveal the evil of Hidetora’s past actions. However, there is no such clear cause and effect relationship between Edmond’s suffering and his evilness.

Edmund’s actions serve the theme of dark human nature rather than being evil out of a reasonable cause, and he is less sympathetic than Lady Kaede on this aspect. Edmund is a two-faced character while Lady Kaede is single-minded. Next, I will analyze how Lady Kaede’s characteristics are embodied in the Noh form. The analysis will focus on how Kurosawa uses the character’s body language and objects instead of direct dialogues to indicate the plot development. Firstly, Lady Kaede wears a Noh mask which is traditionally for a crazy woman.

This indicates that she is an atrocious and evil character who will achieve her goals by any kind of means. Secondly, Lady Kaede’s dressing is colorful and luxuriant in the beginning of the film, which indicates her high position as the mistress of the House of Ichimonji. After Taro’s death, she dresses in white, which is a color of mourning for her husband, and also a symbol of losing power and position. Even after she has had sex with Jiro, she is still in white, which means she did not regain the legal position of mistress, in other words, her family territory of the First Castle is lost again.

At her death scene however, she dresses back in color, which indicates she has accomplished her revenge and is satisfied with the result of Ichimonji clan being destroyed. Thirdly, Lady Kaede’s stillness and movements create power. For instance, in the scene of she told Taro about Hiderora massacred her whole family and her mother killed herself in the room they are in, she sits with static motion and silence and talked calmly without any strong emotion, which shocks the audience and makes it sound more horrible than she crying or behaving mad.

Her calculated way of moving, which holds her upper body straight and only moves her lower body, and the sound of sledding on the wooden floor also creates power. In the scene when Kurogane brings back the stone fox head instead of Lady Sue’s and satires Lady Kaede to be an evil fox-spirit, Lady Kaede’s sledding pace is changing according to her emotions. Before she knows Lady Kaede’s head is fake, her moving is steady and within control, when she sees the stone fox head and realizes being fooled, her movement lost control for a while and she rushes to the front to throw it down.

After she threatens Jiro never to see her before bringing Lady Kaede’s head, her pace of leaving is fast with tension and anger. The pattern breaking abrupt and violent change in stance of Lady Kaede makes the play dramatic, and symbols the climax of the plot development. In the seduce scene, she kneels to Jiro with Taro’s armour in her hand, which makes the audience expect her to be a gentle and obedient character like Lady Sue, however, suddenly she jumps on Jiro and draws out his sword to threaten him, laugh at him, and force him to accept her as the mistress in exchange of ‘not saying a word’ on Jiro murdering Taro for the Head position.

She even steps her feet and screams when she is extremely angry, which have shocked the audience. This scene is very important in the whole play because it indicates everything happening after this point is in the control of Lady Kaede instead of Jiro, and the tragic ending of Ichimonji clan being destroyed is within expectation. Fourthly, Kurokawa is good at using objects to imply Lady Kaede’s real consciousness.

In the seduce scene, a close-up shows Lady Kaede kicking Taro’s armour away, which implies that she does not care about Taro at all. In the scene after Jiro and her had sex, another close-up to the armour reminds people of the cruelty of this woman, whose husband has just dead and has been fast forgotten, her defense for Taro’s death is actually for her own future. After sex, Lady Kaede pretends to be pitiful, and uses the famine way crying for position.

However, while she is pretending to cry, another close-up of her killing the fly on the ground has revealed the cruelty and ambition of this woman. There is no love in her; the only thing she wants is getting back her family castle. In conclusion, Kurokawa’s Ran shifted Shakespeare’s King Lear both in purpose and style. With the key figure Lady Kaede, Ran is turned into a revenge story, while the Noh treatment emphasizes the ruthless, passionate, and single-minded natures of this character.

Cite this Lady Kade and the Noh Performance in Kurosawa’s Ran

Lady Kade and the Noh Performance in Kurosawa’s Ran. (2016, Sep 03). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/lady-kade-and-the-noh-performance-in-kurosawas-ran/

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