Part 1: Throne of Blood Cinematography by Akira Kurosawa

Cinematography by Akira Kurosawa:

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Akira Kurosawa: Japan’s best film director (thus far):

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Throne of Blood

Throne of Blood‘ (known as Kumonosu-jo in Japanese) is a 1957 film, based on a rendition of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ play; but made into medieval Japan.

I love the cinematography, and the excellent acting by Toshiro Mifune (also one of the star actors of the epic ‘7 samurai’ film (also by Kurosawa).

Here are some of my favorite cinematography from the film:

Scene setting

Lovely balance and composition of landscape here:

Perspective changing

Nice perspective changing here:

1. Note the commander with the interesting shapes, shot from a low angle:

2. Nice division of the frame:

3. Lovely curved composition:

Then finally, the top-down shot, looking at the man. Note that the background is totally filled; no distracting elements:

Spacing of generals

Then note the spacing of all the generals, and the subtle shift of one of the generals looking over to the left:

Shift of perspective

Then note the camera perspective shifts, to give the viewer some variety of perspective. The camera is now shot from behind the generals; seen from their perspective:

Lesson: Don’t always shoot your camera angles head-on. Switch it up; the next scene shoot it from their behind (from their perspective). This will prevent the viewer from getting bored.

Super close-up, but from a slightly lower angle:

This will be a nice perspective when shooting portrait photos as well:

Beautiful shots

Just lovely composition; when the two soldiers are lost in the forest:

Lesson: When you’re shooting a film, or any photo project; focus on the details. Just nice compositions, light, and scenery is good!

Hold the shot, and get even closer

This shot is quite nice — the camera holds the perspective head-on, and slowly zooms in:

Bookend figures (far left and far right): with spirit ghost in center:

Note when you add ‘gaussian blur’; you can see the white man in the center pop out, as contrasted with the two soldiers (far left and far right) who are dark black, and the background being mostly grey tones:

Compositionally, this gives more ‘figure to ground‘ (contrast) between all the subjects of the frame. Works especially well in black and white.

Then a shift — you get a closeup of the spirit ghost (as symbolized by a man spinning the thread– the thread being a metaphor for the shortness of man’s life):

Once again, note the camera shift, now seen from behind the ghost spirit:

Also note how the three figures make a nice triangle composition:

Then a surprising scene: the spirit ghost stands up, then disappears! (Just like magic!)

Compositionally, I also like the triangle composition:

Then a nice scene, with bones (symbolizing death, and the foolishness of war, and military/power ambition):

Curve (from bottom of frame, to top right, to top-left)

This is a scene I want you to particularly flip through a few times: note how the horses enter from the foreground in the center, then go deeper into the frame to the top-right, then exit on the top left:

This is interesting, because it shows how you can make a more three-dimensional scene in film!

Closeup of Mifune

Love this shot: look how intense Mifune looks (his eyes), the framing of the cutoff legs in the top of the frame, and him accepting the sword on the bottom of the frame:

Then him showing suspicion, then bowing:

Contrast this to his friend (now camera pans from the left to the right); his friend looking more sheepish, and uncertain:

Triangle composition

Later on, another nice triangle composition:

Epic diagonal composition:

Shift of perspective (diagonal)

Then a shift of perspective, and a new diagonal composition:

Part II

Part 2 coming soon…

Until then, study all CINEMA >


Cinematography and life lessons: