Friday, 21 September 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1957: Toshiro Mifune in Throne of Blood

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Taketoki Washizu in Throne of Blood.

Throne of Blood is an excellent adaptation of Macbeth set in feudal Japan.

Macbeth is certainly a character who has received many different portrayals as Macbeth certainly is very open to interpretation. As with most of Shakespeare's leads there really is not a definitive portrayal even in film. Mifune's performance as Washizu who is Macbeth really is very different from other portrayal of the treacherous lord, one reason I would say is unlike other portrayals his does not have soliloquies. Akira Kurosawa keeps this version of the story very refined, and it always moves forward leaving Mifune to move right forward with his performance of the character.

Although Mifune does not have his inner monologues to himself to describe his internal struggle as that is not really a problem. Mifune takes a striking approach with Washizu as a man who barely has any time to really think about the moral troubles of the situation. Something that really is effective about this version is actually that it is a very short adaptation. It never seems lacking though making it that Washizu's decision to betray the King to seem even more pointless than in other versions of Macbeth due to how little time he seems to be able to enjoy his time at the top.

Mifune portrays the ambition as a necessity though brought on by his wife who basically convinces him that it will be either him or the Emperor whether he likes it or not. There is not a delay in his performance as Mifune portrays the betrayal as his own preservation. It really is not ambition he has at first as it very much is in his concern for his own place and power. Mifune genuinely shows that his original intentions may not be nearly as dreadful as one might think, even though his thoughts are entirely manipulated by his wife who most certainly wants the Emperor dead entirely for her own ends.

Of course the amount of sympathy one can have for Washizu quickly drifts as Mifune only can portray concern for one's self for so long. As he quickly becomes deeper into his dark deeds Mifune brings out his incredible intensity in the part. There are not hesitations in his Washizu once he justifies his actions once.  There is rage and passion here that conveys well the level that Washizu will go to keep and maintain what he has gained. Mifune has a great power in his performance showing Washizu's desires to be an incredible force of nature that propels forward his desire and greed that only causes him to commit worse acts along the way.

As he goes down further into the darkness Mifune brings about a growing insanity within Washizu. Mifune has quite a challenge in that Washizu begins pretty crazy and he only goes crazier and crazier. Mifune though actually manages to bring about the level of insanity required for the part as his actions drive him further and further out of control. The famous ghost scene is particularly well handled by Mifune who in the scene brings a strong visceral effect in his portrayal as Washizu goes on a mad rant of hatred, fear and some regret at the apparition that only he can see.

Mifune creates a portrait that really is unrepentant though, even though he does indicate some regret, when he sees his best friends severed head that he ordered done. Mifune though does not beat about the bush here as there is a great deal of conviction in all of his actions. Even in his short moments of shame, Mifune is terrific in that he has Washizu almost hatefully blame those he wronged for the guilt he feels, rather than honestly feeling any honest or lasting grief for the wrong he has done.

The greatest moment in this performance has to be the final moments of the film as he psychotically postures his presumed power, that is instantly shattered as he sees the truth of what his fate will be. Mifune's final breakdown well being slowly killed by a barrage of arrows is astounding. Mifune becomes a beast in a cage as Washizu flails around trying to avoid the arrows well fully realizing the results of his action. It is a very physical and extremely effective death scene by Mifune that is fitting painful and powerful end for his treacherous character.

He takes a very specific approach with the part that easily commands the screen through the entirety of the film. Macbeth can be portrayed many ways often as a man who reluctantly becomes the same evil he vanquished at the beginning of the story. Mifune takes really no prisoners with his performance as he turns his version of the character that truly is the evil really from the beginning. It is exceedingly memorable that Mifune creates Washizu as a man where the evil simply needed to be let out by a twisted justification. This is terrific portrayal of "Macbeth" that is uncompromising in his depiction of the immorality and brutality.


Tanvir Bashar said...

Wat wud u say r the top ten best kurosawa films of all time

Louis Morgan said...

1. Rashomon
2. High and Low
3. Seven Samurai
4. Yojimbo
5. Sanjuro
6. Ikiru
7. Throne of Blood
8. Stray Dog
9. Kagemusha
10. Drunken Angel

Tanvir Bashar said...

Just askin y do us prefer rashomon over seven samurai

Louis Morgan said...

In a word, the cast. Both films are brilliantly directed and written by Kurosawa. In Seven Samurai's case Shimura and Mifune are great but everyone else is not particularly memorable. They are used well to create the whole atmosphere of the film, but they don't make too much of an impact. Rashomon on the other hand has the very best ensemble in a Kurosawa film Mifune, Kyo and Mori are amazing and even though their roles are much more modest Shimura, Chiaki, Ueda, and Honma manage to give very memorable performances.

TParker said...

I thought he overacted a bit, but I guess that's the point.

I like how his fear as he was being shot at wasn't Washizu's, it was Mifune's.