Throne of Death Akira Kurosawa's Term Paper

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Blood serves as a corresponding symbol of death. The bloodstained walls in the room are a visual reminder of treachery. Similarly, Washizu's title is built on a "throne of blood," earned not by his valor but by his treachery. Blood symbolizes the spilling of the life force, and it is significant that Washizu sleeps in the same room as his predecessor traitor. Equally as significant is the "out damned spot" scene, in which Asaji compulsively washes her hands in the basin to remove the marker of murder that stains her soul. This scene also humanizes her, which allows Kurosawa to explore the three-dimensionality of the Lady Macbeth character. If she was just evil, Asaji would not have had a conscience at all. Her stillborn child is also a concrete symbol of death. A stillborn baby represents a dead womb: the lifelessness at the heart of Asaji's character and the impotence she shares with her husband.

Storms and weather offer other symbols. The mist symbolizes blindness and being lost. Cobweb Forest is frequently referred to as a "labyrinth," which also symbolizes confusion and getting lost. Spider imagery is central to Throne of Blood. We first see the witch spinning thread: a spider's act. She also sits behind a cocoon-like shroud in the center of the forest, suggesting that she is the spider who weaves the web. Her connection to the fates also evokes a connection with Greek mythology, because the Greek Fates were spinners. Fate and its immutability is a central theme of Throne of Blood. Washizu seems to have the choice between good and evil because he could have chosen to not listen to Asaji. However, the witch seemed to know that the temptation would be too great for the samurai. His fate was in fact to be weak and easily misled. Asaji is also a spider-like creature in Throne of Blood. She slithers around in robes that make her look like a maggot. Moreover, she is often shown sitting calmly: a spider waiting to catch its pray in her web of lies. Like a spider, Asaji does not actually kill but lures victims to their own death. When Washizu dies, he is assaulted with a cloud of arrows so thick it is as if he is being wrapped up tightly in the spider's silk.

Animals are strong symbols in Throne of Blood. Horses symbolize untamed desire and being out of control. For instance, right before Miki dies a white horse runs madly around the courtyard. This symbolizes Washizu being out of control with his killing spree. Furthermore, death is often associated with a pale horse. Birds are evocative symbols in the film. In fact, many of the characters perceive birds as "bad omens." Immediately before he kills Lord Tsuzuki, Washizu is visited by a cawing crow. Toward the end of the film, a Hitchcok-esque scene with a cacophony of birds provides foreboding sounds and imagery. Washizu's willingness to tempt fate and his delusional belief that he can change fate is encapsulated in the scene in which he claims that the swarm of birds are actually a "good omen."

Finally, lunar symbolism is important in Throne of Blood. The crescent moon is the emblem of the samurai and is placed on the Lords' head gear. This seems like a pagan symbol and therefore points to the interface between the human and divine worlds. Moreover, the moon directly refers to cycles. Throne of Blood is a cyclical film. Many of the images at the start of the film reappear in the final scene: such as the mist and the circular grave marker. The theme of corrupt leadership is also cyclical because the film starts with one samurai betraying another, and ends on the same note. Thus, Throne of Blood ends as strongly as it begins and suggests that human beings are caught up in endless cycles of death and destruction. Their fate is largely determined by the contents of their souls too: those who are corrupt at heart are bound to create the same mistakes as their predecessors. Rather than spell these themes out for us, Kurosawa deftly uses symbolism to enrich the story of Macbeth.

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