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Titled (Paper: Buddhist Symbolism in "Ran")

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    I am new to this site. I was searching for knowledge of the Buddhist symbolism in Ran, and came across the topic titled above. It was an old topic from 2012. I saw some mildly interesting thoughts, and had my questions answered. Although something really bothered me about many of the thoughts expressed by Plesco. If somebody could point me in some better directions it would be appreciated, but I had to add my two cents on one of Phil Lecso’s points about ‘Ran.’ Here is an excerpt quoting him:


    Next is Nordin’s reference to the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree. This is a very powerful symbol of enlightenment but the Buddha consciously sat under the Bodhi tree vowing not to arise until he understood the meaning of life-and-death. Hidetora falls asleep in an open area and Saburo cuts a branch to shade his father. Hidetora is fairly passive throughout this scene and he awakes confused not enlightened. Nordin reads too much into this scene.


    When Saburo attempts to enlighten his father by ‘planting’ a Bodhi tree next to him for shade and enlightenment, #1 It is foreshadowing, #2 Hidetora woke up confused because he was not on the path to enlightenment yet, and #3 He later to varying degrees began to attempt the path to enlightenment, but it was in some sense, too late for him.(…and Saburo, not to mention his other two dead sons.) There is much more to delve into on this one symbolic act, but #1 & #2 were just blaring out at me. To make the many statements that Plecso made about a cigar is a cigar was in my opinion not giving Kurosawa his due. The symbolism can be extended much further to whether his enlightenment was of any value to future lives, namely u the viewer,…but that is another discussion.



    …my apologies, I referred to Plecso incorrectly in the first paragraph as Plesco. It is Phil Lecso not Lesco.



    Hi GMony, and welcome – just for clarity, is this the discussion thread you are referring to?



    The main reason I became interested in Kurosawa was the movie Ikuru in which the main character become enlightened during the six months of his illness. Much of the imagery in that film is taken from aphorisms of Buddha. All of Kurosawa’s movies in one way or another have Buddhist imagery in them some much more than others.

    Ran may be the most pessimistic of all of his films because Buddha is no longer in the world. There is no redemption in that film.



    Its hard to know I think whether the Buddhism in AK films was deliberate or simply something in his cultural background. Martinez has argued that traditional Japanese folklore is a very important influence on his films, something not always recognised by critics and academics who are often unaware of stories and traditions which someone like Kurosawa would have been brought up hearing. I certainly find her argument very convincing when it comes to films like Yojimbo. The Buddhism in some of his films may therefore not have been particularly conscious on his part – the obvious exception being Ran, which is of course infused with specifically Buddhist imagery. But I would think that in comparison to, for example, Mizoguchi or even Ozu, he was less formally religious and inclined to reference buddhism or shintoism into his films.

    I’d point out that in some of his earlier films there are actually some Christian allusions (such as in Scandal), but these were almost certainly just part of his cultural background, not inserted for specific purposes, similarly to the way in which many of his films have echoes of Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, etc. I think that in many ways he was typical of one particular Japanese tendency to adapt almost any outside notion or philosophy that took his fancy and then twist and use it to his own purposes – one reason of course that Japanese popular culture can be so rich and interesting.

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