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This article explores ways in which Kurosawa's Ran, an adaptation of King Lear which premiered in 1985, evokes Western and Japanese traditions to confront Japan's wartime history and the post-war dangers of mutually assured destruction. In focusing on the depiction of Hidetora (the film's Lear-figure) as one who both commits and suffers atrocity, the article traces parallels with the condition of post-war Japan, which, at the time of the film's premiere, was still coming to terms with the violence it had inflicted and suffered during the mid-twentieth century. In doing so, it illuminates the film's transformative reception of the dramatic traditions and historical narratives of Japan and the 'West' (especially Shakespeare's tragedies; the Noh plays Yoroboshi and Sesshoseki; Norton and Sackville's Gorboduc; and Senecan drama). Kurosawa's adaptation of Lear structures new, emotionally powerful events that are as politically charged as they are aesthetic and affective. Ultimately, the article argues that Ran's simultaneous evocations of both Japanese and Western traditions (the ostensible foregrounding of Shakespearean aspects of the film, such as the division of the kingdom, re-appropriated through Japanese setting, costumes, language, and conventions), and specifically the ways that the film's depictions of violence, revenge, and karmic retribution implicate both traditions concurrently, make a powerful statement about the construction and shattering of national identity and the logic of mutually assured destruction.
Kurosawa,Ran,Japan,Lear ,Noh drama,Cold War,Second World War,Reception,Karma,Revenge