Welcome to Akira Kurosawa info!  Log in or Register?

Throne of Blood: Lady Asaji, psychopath or victim?

  •   link

    Ugetsu

    The more I think of the film, the more intrigued I am by the character of Lady Asaji. For me, there are some key puzzles for me in her depiction as a character. For example:

    – Why is she given no motivation for her evil? There is no attempt to give even the sketchiest indication as to why she is so relentlessly ambitious and paranoid. No reason is given at all as to why she insists on manipulating her husband. In Ran, Lady Kaede is given motivation for her evil (the slaughter of her family) – Lady Asaji is given no such dignity. In most other cases of major evil characters I can think of in Kurosawa movies, there is almost always some form of motivation provided – Asaji seems to be unique in this.

    – Why does Yamada act with such overt Noh mannerisms – much more than any other character (except the forest spirit) – I assume this is deliberate – it seems to mark her out as different from the other main characters. I know Richie attributes it to AK wishing the female characters to be more ‘Noh’ than the male, but it doesn’t appear to apply to the other (albeit very minor) female characters, such as the midwife.

    – What is the purpose of the scene where she seems to vanish ethereally into her closet? It is chilling and mysterious, but does not seem to be directly related to the plot. Is it just a reference to Lady MacBeths sleepwalking scene?

    -Was she really pregnant?

    -What she always insane, or did she just ‘crack’ at the end?

    -Why is her death not shown or indicated? As the co-conspirator with Washizu it seems odd to me that her character is left in her situation. I know Lady MacBeth’s death isn’t shown either, but its pretty clear in the play that she commits suicide. As such an important character, you would expect some sort of ‘end’. It seems a curious loose end in the film if you accept that she is a major character.

    As I have speculated in other threads, one explanation may be that Lady Asaji is not an evil character after all, but has actually been possessed by the Forest Spirit. I’ve been doing a little reading on Shinto mythology, and although I can’t find any direct analogies, there is a tradition of spirits, specifically fox spirits, taking over women or unborn children. This would explain her more stylised, ghostly depiction – she is not entirely human. It would also explain her madness after the miscarriage if the unborn child was in fact the evil spirit – the spirit simply leaves her as a deranged shell of a human being when the work has been done (hence no need to show her death, she is already effectively dead). For me, this explanation ties up many of the loose ends in the film. It assumes, of course, that the spirit is not foretelling the future, but is deliberately interfering with the world of himans for her own ends.

    Any thoughts on this?

    As a final (possibly unrelated) point, for those who have seen it, could the depiction of Lady Asaji be influenced by Jeannette Nolans performance in Welle’s version of the play? I ask this because in searching online for reviews I came across this intriguing comment by Michael Costelloe of Allmovie.

    ….whose unique Lady Macbeth is either an exhibition of rank scenery-chewing or a performance of intriguingly Kabuki-like stylization.

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Ugetsu, the idea of Lady Macbeth being a fox is fun!

    Your query brings me ’round to the question of “reality” in the film. In what ways should we view the characters. In the case of Lady Asaji, do we view her as symbolic figure, magical, malevolent spirit, or human with human motivations? I don’t know if we can say with certainty who and what she is, unless we take a stand about how Shakespeare or how Kurosawa sees his work.

    Is there a clue about how to understand the characters (including lady Asaji) In the famous soliloquy?:

    “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying Nothing.”

    (my italics)

    This self-referential reminder of the “play as the thing” is repeated and again in Shakespeare’s work. From As You Like It:

    “All the world’s a stage,

    And all the men and women merely players:

    They have their exits and their entrances;”

    If the metaphor works both ways, then the stage is also a world (and by extension so is film-and that’s really how it works, isn’t it? Suspension of disbelief and all…). Kurosawa pretty clearly loved the world of filmmaking, and we know that his attitude was that film could teach, that it had value. His dad believed that, and Kurosawa believed it.

    So, in the self-consciously “created” world-the figure of lady Asaji is a symbolic one at one level-representing malevolence-embodying it, and the presentational is Kurosawa’s self-reflexivity. It’s a bit like Shakespeare, but in a way suited to film. And, I think that’s why she is less naturalistic or realistic-why she becomes transformed in madness into a Noh figure. The Noh references are Kurosawa’s way of reminding us of the “PLAY” and the construct.

      link

    lawless

    As the apparent resident manga and manga-based anime expert, I can’t resist the temptation to ask Ugetsu does this mean Lady Asaji and Naruto are related?

    (For those who don’t know, as a baby, Naruto had the spirit of the nine-tailed fox demon contained within his body to save his village, Konohakagure, from destruction by the fox demon. It’s a two-edged sword: It gives him additional strength, but once enough of the tails manifest, he can no longer control its chakra and can injure others and himself. In addition, because he houses the village’s enemy, as a child he was shunned until one of his instructors befriended him.)

    As for the idea of Lady Asaji being possessed or the front for an evil spirit, whether a fox spirit or some other spirit, it seems to me to have some merit. On another thread I suggested that perhaps the castle itself or the forest is the manifestation of or possessed by an evil spirit.

    And whatever the motivation behind the scene where she disappears to fetch the huge container of sake, it’s a striking image that meets the definition of “cool” contained in the “Faster Pusssycat, Kill, Kill” thread, doesn’t it?

      link

    Vili Maunula

    These are really good points, Ugetsu. The idea of her being possessed seems more and more interesting.

    Kurosawa’s Noh mask reference for the actress Yamada was the one called “Shakumi”. In an interview with Joan Mellen, Kurosawa points out that it “was the mask of a beauty no longer young, and represented the image of a woman about to go mad.” (Cardullo, 65) I wonder, how explicit would this have been for an educated member of the original Japanese audiences? Did they immediately on her first appearance in the film realise that she was on her way to madness? I would say that if you watch the film with this in mind from the very beginning, you get a very different interpretation of the character, one much more of a victim than a psychopath.

    I have actually always associated Asaji with foxes. I thought that I had got it from a Kurosawa critic somewhere, but a cursory scan of the usual suspects doesn’t seem to suggest that (I may be missing something, though?). In any case, I am definitely of the opinion that she is a fox of some sorts, whether just metaphorical or actual, I don’t know. Based on my experience of Japanese folk stories, the fox spirits in Japanese mythology certainly often are devious and evil, plus I think that they can take human form, although have difficulties hiding their tales.

    Wikipedia also tells (with two references, hurray) that being possessed by a fox spirit “was noted as a disease as early as the Heian period and remained a common diagnosis for mental illness until the early 20th century.”

    You also noted that Asaji’s fate is left unresolved. Like I mentioned earlier, she doesn’t actually seem to be the only unresolved aspect of the story. In many ways, the film really ends “in medias res”, so to speak, just like it begins. Things are in motion, but we don’t quite know what will come out of them.

    As for Welles’s version, I don’t think that Kurosawa saw Welles’s Macbeth until after Throne of Blood. Richie, in Cardullo (14) remarks that he saw it “much later … on television”, although the announcement of Welles’s version apparently did postpone Kurosawa’s plans for his own adaptation, which he had originally planned to do after Rashomon (Richie, 115).

      link

    Ugetsu

    Lawless:

    As the apparent resident manga and manga-based anime expert, I can’t resist the temptation to ask Ugetsu does this mean Lady Asaji and Naruto are related?

    Well, in a way! I was reading about Naruto (I didn’t know who or what he was before I started reading into this), and I was interested that the concept of a spirit taking over a body was present in Japanese mythology (it is of course common in European mythology). But try as I might, I couldn’t make any kind of ‘fox’ connection! But I think the notion that in such a world, possession by a spirit via an unborn baby would be consistent with a Shinto worldview. So I don’t think its an outlandish thought.

    Vili:

    I have actually always associated Asaji with foxes. I thought that I had got it from a Kurosawa critic somewhere, but a cursory scan of the usual suspects doesn’t seem to suggest that (I may be missing something, though?). In any case, I am definitely of the opinion that she is a fox of some sorts, whether just metaphorical or actual, I don’t know. Based on my experience of Japanese folk stories, the fox spirits in Japanese mythology certainly often are devious and evil, plus I think that they can take human form, although have difficulties hiding their tales.

    Its really interesting that you thought of her as a fox. Now that I think of it, her trailing gown (shown very clearly in the ‘closet’ scene) could have hidden something… 🙄

    Vili:

    As for Welles’s version, I don’t think that Kurosawa saw Welles’s Macbeth until after Throne of Blood. Richie, in Cardullo (14) remarks that he saw it “much later … on television”, although the announcement of Welles’s version apparently did postpone Kurosawa’s plans for his own adaptation, which he had originally planned to do after Rashomon

    It figures! I actually watched Welles version last night (to my surprise, there were no fewer than four different versions of MacBeth in my favourite DVD rental store). Its very impressive, I enjoyed it a lot, and there is even a brief scene that is very reminiscent of ToB – one brief shot of foliage emerging from the fog. But I realise now that what the critic meant about Jeanette Nolans performance as ‘Kabuki’ was not that it was Japanese like, more that it was ridiculously over the top! (to be fair, hers isn’t the only poor performance in the film).

      link

    Ugetsu

    Coco:

    So, in the self-consciously “created” world-the figure of lady Asaji is a symbolic one at one level-representing malevolence-embodying it, and the presentational is Kurosawa’s self-reflexivity. It’s a bit like Shakespeare, but in a way suited to film. And, I think that’s why she is less naturalistic or realistic-why she becomes transformed in madness into a Noh figure. The Noh references are Kurosawa’s way of reminding us of the “PLAY” and the construct.

    I must admit I didn’t really grasp what you were writing first time I read this, but I think I understand now – its an interesting idea. I think its a good point that one reason that Kurosawa was so successful at filming Shakespeare where so many other film makers have failed, is that he took the plays seriously as potential cinema, not seeing the language and structure as a ‘problem’ to be converted to the screen. Of course, the representational style of Japanese cinema probably helped.

    Over the weekend, I had another look at the film, this time paying close attention to Asaji (pleased to report that I find the film more gripping each time I watch it). I noticed two things that I hadn’t noticed before (apologies for forgetting to note the screen time):

    At one stage, Washizu says explicitly to Asaji ‘Have you been taken over by a spirit?’ when she says that Miki is going to betray him. This seems a pretty clear pointer about one possible interpretation for her behaviour.

    I’m not sure what significance to read into it, but early on, Asaji says that ‘she believes in the prediction implicitly’. But in the scene where she announces her pregnancy, she insists that the prediction can be broken, that it is not inevitable that Miki’s son takes over the castle. Thats a pretty big turnaround. A sign of her impending breakdown perhaps, or also just an indication of just how manipulative and malign she is? ❓

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Thanks for working through the somewhat impenetrable wall of quasi-logic I am constructing, Ugetsu! You are a patient guy!

    I’ll slog on to try to elaborate: creating the presentational Noh-inspired drama is a good stand-in for Shakespeare’s self-reflexive soliloquy! Both invite us to examine things from a critical distance-

    I just read this really wonderful article on Rivera’s murals in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, and what struck me forcible was the idea that, climbing the stairs to view the murals, one’s perspective changed, and the images and discourse change as well. One is “in the mix” in the early, lower level, then gains a view overlooking the entire composition from a distance that allows one to frame the critical discourse as a construct.

    I am just questioning levels of reality in the play and in the film, and asking whether or not both Macbeths don’t offer us interpretive play via distancing strategies in deciding questions of human evil. The Artifice of art helps us to ask these questions.

    So, it brings us ’round to the stance of the observer:do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe in malign spirits? Or, is it enough that humans are filled with such bottomless good and evil? Is it problem enough that evil exists and that there are causes and reasons-often motivations of which we have incomplete or no knowledge?

      link

    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: At one stage, Washizu says explicitly to Asaji ‘Have you been taken over by a spirit?’ when she says that Miki is going to betray him. This seems a pretty clear pointer about one possible interpretation for her behaviour.

    That’s very interesting! Too bad that you don’t have the screen time — I thought that I knew which scene you referred to (around 30 minutes into the film), but at least my Criterion copy didn’t have that line in there.

    I did notice another interesting exchange there, though (this runs from around 00:28:20 to 00:29:00):

    Asaji: Is your heart resolved?

    Washizu: No. I dreamt an evil dream. Beguiled by a wicked spirit. But I no longer waver. Preposterous, to wish I were Lord of Spider’s Web Castle.

    Asaji: Do not call your dream preposterous. Any man who takes bow in hand would dream of such a fate.

    If I interpret his reference to a “dream” correctly, Washizu at this point considers that his hopes were borne out of the old hag deceiving him. Now, he is planning to make what probably would be the right decision (i.e. not to kill the Lord).

    And then Asaji makes her move, starting by telling him that his dream is not preposterous, and then moving on to spin the paranoia about Miki having already betrayed Washizu. Is Washizu here actually beguiled by an evil spirit, once again?

    It is also interesting how the Lord’s arrival after this scene plays perfectly into Asaji’s hand — she has just finished saying that the Lord and his men may soon be knocking on Washizu’s gate to get rid of him. If she is the forest spirit and, as both lawless and I have suggested, has some powers over those in the Spider Web Castle, could she have actually initiated the Lord’s arrival?

    It would be easier to read her part in all this if she had any facial expressions, which she doesn’t. Since she is most of the time such a fixed character, while Washizu and the camera move around her, one doesn’t always realise how static she really is! But when you fix you attention on her and her only, she really does come across as very spooky — and very much like the similarly unmoving old hag (well, in the first encounter of the had, anyway).

    Ugetsu: I’m not sure what significance to read into it, but early on, Asaji says that ‘she believes in the prediction implicitly’. But in the scene where she announces her pregnancy, she insists that the prediction can be broken, that it is not inevitable that Miki’s son takes over the castle. Thats a pretty big turnaround. A sign of her impending breakdown perhaps, or also just an indication of just how manipulative and malign she is?

    Within the context of the discussion, I would say that it is her manipulation, again.

    But I also think that this is actually one of the central paradoxes of the film, as well as that of the play. The characters seem to believe only those parts of the prophecy that they like, and think that they can go against it in other details.

    If I consider a reading where there is no predetermination (as I have been arguing for in the free will thread), I would say that this is a further sign of the kind of self-deception that we carry out when we make our minds about the world being in one way or another, and then proceed to blindly interpret everything around us from that point of view, even if half of our conclusions don’t really make any logical sense and are furthermore in clear contradiction to our own views.

      link

    Ugetsu

    Vili:

    Ugetsu: At one stage, Washizu says explicitly to Asaji ‘Have you been taken over by a spirit?’ when she says that Miki is going to betray him. This seems a pretty clear pointer about one possible interpretation for her behaviour.

    That’s very interesting! Too bad that you don’t have the screen time — I thought that I knew which scene you referred to (around 30 minutes into the film), but at least my Criterion copy didn’t have that line in there.

    Unfortunately, for some reason I can’t get my dvd to tell me the screen time, but it is immediately after the Lord visits North Mansion to tell Washizu that he will lead the attack. He says (in the BFI version):

    ‘You see how his Lordship trusts me, in doubting Miki you were bewitched by the evil spirits’.

    As you can see, my memory of the quote wasn’t very good. 🙄

      link

    Ugetsu

    I just watched Ran for the first time in a long time last night. I must admit lots of it has slipped from my memory (not, of course, the fact that it is an amazing film). For one thing, I’d forgotten all about the scene where Jiro’s vassal makes it clear he considers Kaede to be an evil fox spirit.

    The more I think about it, the more I think there are some quite fascinating parallels between Asaji and Kaede.

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Ugetsu

    The more I think about it, the more I think there are some quite fascinating parallels between Asaji and Kaede.

    …hella yeah.

      link

    Ugetsu

    Coco:

    Ugetsu

    The more I think about it, the more I think there are some quite fascinating parallels between Asaji and Kaede.

    …hella yeah.

    Yes, but I think Asaji had way cooler eyebrows…. 😀 😀

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Ugetsu, Double yep! I do think the bug-crush of Kaede is awesome. And, despite the revenge motivation, her brand of ruthlessness is really astonishing-as much so as Asaji to me, anyway.

      link

    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: For one thing, I’d forgotten all about the scene where Jiro’s vassal makes it clear he considers Kaede to be an evil fox spirit.

    The more I think about it, the more I think there are some quite fascinating parallels between Asaji and Kaede.

    Well spotted! And now that you bring this up, I’m actually fairly certain that my associating Asaji with fox spirits is almost entirely because of this!

      link

    Squirrel

    – Why is she given no motivation for her evil?

    – Was she really pregnant?

    To my mind, pregnancy, or her child, is the main motivation for her actions. She herself seem not to enjoy any part of the ‘success’–and if her purpose was solely to desroy Washizu, it makes little sense. Interestingly, K opposed the idea of the child born with abnormalities – despite that Asaji goes mad herself (don’t this she fakes this). Asaji’s creippled enough is the reason, i assume.

    – What she always insane, or did she just ‘crack’ at the end?

    – Why is her death not shown or indicated?

    – As I have speculated in other threads, one explanation may be that Lady Asaji is not an evil character after all, but has actually been possessed by the Forest Spirit

    I can’t view Asaji as a human, and can’t view her as a ghost, though relation (“i know better”) is more then evident. I view here as a society HQ that push poor silly people (Washizu) around. As Richie said, he’s a little man. Heck, ll these people are little men! They kill him because they fear. They retreat just like dogs — and just as Washizu ran off Miki’s ghost. Oh wait, i have a quote to prove she’s neither:

    Q: What did you intend to represent in Macbeth?

    A: the images of men who lived through the age when the weak became the prey for the strong are highly concentrated. Human beings are described in great intensity. In this sense, I think there is something in Macbeth which is common to all works of mine. (l:64)

    (Interview w/ Mellen, 1975)

    And Asaji need not die. She failed here, she will fail again. Note that the castle is taken w/o combat (cut, and then white flags), but it still will be destroyed. She goes mad now–but there’s room for another bloody failure. I view her madness as BSOD. Needs only pressing the reset button! And there we go again – round n’ round!

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Hello Squirrel.

    No motivation? She was grasping. Desire is motivation.

    I think, in context of what I believe to be a Buddhist-inflected vision of Shakespeare, that desire is the core deceiver-that keeps us locked in the Samsara cycle. The witch finds it fascinating-and takes a creepy pleasure in the cycle of rotting decay and rebirth-while finding it meaningless. Why this cycle? Strange and fascinating.

    And,you are right-there is no need to show Asaji’s death. We get the cycle of Samsara from viewing the rocks of ruin and the chanting moral lesson that opens and concludes the film-the prepostion and the coda.

      link

    Squirrel

    Well, as for Buddhism ideas, i’d like not to search them in a movie which doesn’t mention it. In fact, the play Kurozuka the dudes who meeth the witch, seen nochi-jite of the ghost, pray. Kurosawa portrays the play, but noone prays ever in the film! You may look for Buddhist ideas in Ran, but here… a strong “no”.

    BUT i came to another conclusion on the topic of Asaji. If you dig into some Noh aesthetics, you’ll find that, well, waki character echoes shite character (even literally), and the tsure roles are auxilialy and are consedered merely as extensions of their ‘bosses’. Now let’s think about Asaji and Washizu. Are they to be considered waki and shite? In Noh, these roles meet, and part, and there is change in shite, and there is understanding of this change in waki. In ToB (this title sucks, by the way), neither of the two gets any idea, nor they part. So, if we assume Washizu is a quasi-shite (quasi as he doesn’t change. and no he does not! srsly), we can assume Asaji playing shite-dure (シテ連れ) role, and both of them we view as one character. Who’s who, then? Well, Washizu is a kid of his time — he lives in rotten society (he does not stand out of the crowd as Macbeth), he’s unable to make decision and is, as Richie said, ‘a little man’. And Asaji is nothing but his ambition. She does carry the spear — but that just indicates that at this moment ambition is so concentrated that it overcame fear. She is solid as her mask – a perfect, pure ambition, which (plus to the conversation) needs no motivation. She’s clearly a child of that evil lurking in the forest – or the cosmos of the movie, for this sake.

    I found this idea myself. Am i cool? Am I? Am I?–

    P.S. in case Noh terms are unfamiliar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noh (but reading some book’s always better, i read Анарина’s book which is in Russian so can’t really recommend anything.. uh oh)

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Hi Squirrel,

    Well, don’t accept Buddhist ideas, that’s fine. Whatever.

    Buddhist ideas do, however, form quite satisfactory answers to the character motivations, and to the tragic tenor of the overview and coda. You can throw them out if you wish.

      link

    lawless

    At the risk of appearing to pile on, Squirrel, I agree with Coco that there need not be any express reference to Buddhism or prayer for “Throne of Blood” to be influenced by Buddhist concepts. While perhaps more relevant to the witch’s song, about which there is another thread to which you contributed, the movie’s emphasis on the instability and impermanence of life seems to me to fit perfectly within Japanese Buddhist tradition. It’s not a Shinto concept. Moreover, until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the disestablishment of Buddhism, Buddhism and Shintoism were inextricably intertwined in Japanese culture and politics. Kurosawa certainly knew this and used it in his depiction of a time (the Warring States or Sengoku period) when they were still intertwined.

      link

    Jeremy

    I can’t necessary agree or disagree with anything stated. When it comes to matter dealing with religion one can find or not find anything they want.

    But, indeed Buddhism and Shintoism are so deeply intertwined with Japan, that ignoring such, simply due to no outright display of these principals, risk taking the film outside the intended audience.

    It really wasn’t until after WWII were you could safely say Buddhism and Shintoism become separated from everyday life. However we are dealing with period films, and too still within the transition of old Japanese customs being replaced with a new modernized Japan. One could safely assume the original audience of these movies would still very much be deeply interjected with Buddhism, and Shintoism principals, and Kurosawa certainly wouldn’t be oblivious .

    With no true evidence, I wouldn’t consider Buddhism and Shintoism wrong to assume in Japanese mainstream art until the 1970’s. As it really not until this time when you start to see Japan pull fast away from it old self. And even today it still has some old strings attached here and there.

      link

    Squirrel

    Please, Buddhism is kind of off-topic in this thread. But, just for the sake of it: yes, of course there are motives that appear in Buddhism, namely the idea of fleetingness of our lifes, but there is no need to connect anything to Buddhism, just because it is not mentioned. As when i say that sodomy is bad, there is no need to connect this idea to christiany or anything. As Kurosawa said,

    I keep saying the same thing over and over again. Why—I ask—is that human beings cannot get along with each other, why can’t they live with each other with more good will?

    (The films of AK by D. Richie)

    When I look at Japanese history—or history of the world for that matter—what I see is that man repeats himself over and over again.

    (Interview with Gadi, 1966)

    This repetition thing he does not explicitly connects to Buddhism, and I don’t think there’s need to: i bet most of you have asked the same or a similar question sometime in your life. And note that this ‘fleetingness’ of life is quite different. In Buddhism, it’s like “no matter what i do, there is no meaning in my actions/i won’t achieve anything of significance”. In the movie, it’s like “no matter what i try to do (in this case not to do), i can not turn off the gruesome path i’m on (for such is the nature of man)”. The idea is somewhat different and despite all suggestions i refuse to find any Buddhists’ ideas in the movie. The chanting of the with is of course insipred by them — just as much as Noh itself is inspired by, or rather rooted in, Buddhism. But this is only a part of a play, and the main Buddhist idea of it — can escape a demon through prayer — is nowere present. No, there is absolutely no Buddhism in this movie. Prove me wrong!

    Btw, anyone reads Latvian?

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Squirrel:

    No, there is absolutely no Buddhism in this movie. Prove me wrong!

    No, thanks.

    I already tried to share with Vili what I appreciate as the most excellent pleasures of Seven Samurai and failed miserably! 😉

    It still (on an emotional level) perplexes me that somebody I think so highly of can not see what I see-feel what I feel, but I suppose I have some growing up to do emotionally. They call it “naive realism” when we assume that others will see the world the way we do. I’m too travel-worn to be naive. I need to suck it up. I guess, in a way, having films that you love is like any other love affair. The people outside it can’t really see what all the fuss is about. I guess I need to just allow them to be outside, and call it allright.

    My powers of persuasion are weak and miserable. Nonetheless, I attempt, in a couple of weeks, to entice young minds to spend some of their valuable hormonally-driven energies to focus on the relative merits of dead white European artists. Wish me luck!

      link

    lawless

    Squirrel – You were the one who took Coco’s Buddhism reference off topic in the first place. And it’s obvious that no amount of argument would persuade you. The quotes you present are all general in nature. Why humans can’t livei with each other with more good will is a general concern of humanity, Buddhist or not. You didn’t quote anything having to do with this specific movie.

    Not being as well-versed or well-read in the works about Kurosawa as others here, I don’t have anything to quote having to do with this movie either so I couldn’t try to meet your challenge even if I thought it was a legitimate one. But you’re basically saying “I see no Buddhist influences here” without any support which seems pretty close-minded to me, for one thing because of the period in which the movie is set. Or are you saying all of the spiritual influences in the film are Shinto? An argument in that direction, backed up with proof or examples, would be much more convincing than your merely saying “no”. Before asking others to prove you wrong, you should at least try to prove yourself right rather than argue why we’re wrong.

    Good luck with your art tour, Coco!

      link

    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: As I have speculated in other threads, one explanation may be that Lady Asaji is not an evil character after all, but has actually been possessed by the Forest Spirit.

    I am currently reading Kendra Preston Leonard’s Shakespeare, Madness and Music (review forthcoming), and she has some quite interesting things to say about Noh theatre traditions in Throne of Blood, Lady Asaji, and Masaru Sato’s score for the film.

    For Leonard, there seems to be no doubt that Asaji is possessed, and that her character falls into a common Noh convention (which apparently draws from Mahayana Buddhism) of an immoral woman as temptress, ripe for possession. She further notes that the musical and sound cues used in the soundtrack link Asaji to the witch, suggesting “that Asaji’s actions come from her possession by the witch or one of its kind.” (79) One good example that she give is the sound heard in the scene where Washizu asks her if she is possessed. While Asaji’s answer is negative, the music heard here tells otherwise — it is the same one that is used earlier on in the film when Miki and Washizu first approach the old woman / witch. (81)

    Leonard also suggests that music, or rather the lack of it, marks the point when Asaji’s possessor has left her body. Writing about the scene where Asaji washes her hands, trying to remove the invisible blood stain, Leonard argues:

    Asaji’s obsessive washing takes place in silence; after staring at her in bewilderment, Washizu turns away from her. The startling silence and complete lack of music in this encounter between Asaji and Washizu reveal that Asaji is no longer an instrument of possession but, like other Noh women who have brought about destruction, has gone mad in the realization of her actions. … Her power over Washizu has come to and end. She is no longer linked with prophetic witch but suffers alone. (82-83)

    If we follow Leonard and interpret the spirit as leaving her at this point, it could also explain why Lady Asaji sort of drops out and off screen towards the end, and the film doesn’t bother with her fate. In his original post, Ugetsu notes that since she is a “co-conspirator with Washizu it seems odd to me that her character is left in her situation … you would expect some sort of ‘end’. It seems a curious loose end in the film if you accept that she is a major character.” Perhaps the point in fact is that she is not a major character, but the spirit/witch possessing her is. Once the spirit has left her body, the film has no interest in the real Lady Asaji.

Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)



Leave a comment

Log in or Register to post a comment!