Film narratives are notoriously homogenous. Antagonists are good guys, protagonists are bad guys. However, sometimes these roles are challenged. The film Ran (1985) by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is a film that challenges these roles.
Ran tells the tale of a father betrayed by his sons, a woman’s lust for revenge, and the eventual demise of everyone involved. Kurosawa is able to create violent, unorthodox characters that the viewer can both sympathize with and understand, yet this sympathy is confusing. Throughout the film, the viewer sympathizes with the father, Hidetora. Surprisingly, the viewer still feels this way after hearing of his violent and immoral past. As the plot continues, it is revealed that in events prior to the movie, Hidetora secured his rule through murder; most significantly the murder of Lady Kaede’s family.
Lady Kaede, who is undoubtedly the antagonist of the film, has harbored deep feelings of hate for Hidetora and his clan because of her family’s slaughter. In turn, she has plotted a violent revenge. While the viewer understands her reasons for revenge, there is no sympathy with her character.
This effect of ‘reversed’ sympathy is achieved thanks to Kurosawa’s use of mis-en-scene throughout the movie. He utilizes character costuming, movement, and manner of death in order to produce ‘reversed’ sympathy with the viewer. Combined, these all make the viewer sympathize with Hidetora, a man with a treacherous past but tragic present, yet despise Lady Kaede a woman with a tragic past but treacherous present.
Veronica Desangles, ’14
San Francisco, CA
Major: English and Creative Writing
Sponsor: Kirilka Stavreva