Class Differences in Ran
Kurosawa showcases different social classes in Japanese society often in his films. Whether it be samurais, peasants, warriors or war Lords theses classes of social standings are represented throughout the film. While some characters go beyond their social class and attempt to help those lower than them, others use their social standings to their advantage and a way to stay powerful. Samurais being a normal staple in his films, always seem to possess a higher class and heroic element. In some movies the two social classes interact with each other in many different situations and the audience respects the social standings of the different characters.
In Ran, the social classes represented are mostly upper-class. Lord Hidetora is the ruler of the Ichimonji clan and then the focus shifts to the heirs of the clan who are his three sons, Lord Jiro, Taro, and Saburo. Their upper class is represented by the traditional clothing, make-up and hair styles. Kurosawa uses these things to inform the audience right at the beginning that these are higher class citizens. Not only do the way they dress give away a high social standing, the way in which each character is developed showcases this as well. Once the Lord Jiro and Taro are put into power, it is obvious that they are now seen as a higher leader than before. This is shown through the actions taken and the way the interact with different character (Richie).
A scene in which social class is clearly stated is the scene in which Lord Jiro addresses his father about the way he has been viewed within the First Castle. Becuase the warriors and jester Kyomai are making fun of him and saying he is incapable of overseeing the Ichimonji clan. To make sure no one else sees him as anything lower than the highest leader, he forces his father to the Third Castle, which is the seen as the lowest ranking castle in the Ichimonji clan. To put down Hidetora’s social standing, Lady Kaede asks Lord Hidetora to sit below them while they discuss what Hidetora is to do. Clearly upset that he has been lowered a rank in society in Lady Kaede’s eyes as well as his son’s, Lord Hidetora becomes angered and slowly begins to go insane. Obviously social class is important in this society and being at such a high ranking and then shot down is devistating. Social class is seen as a code of honor to Lord Hidetora and he feels betrayed and angry towards his son and new social ranking.
Tango, Saburo’s servant, seems to be right under Saburo in regards to social class. He is not a Lord but plays a very important part in the Ichimonhi clan’s society. He is there to help Saburo through his banishment and also attempts to inform Hidetora of the coming trouble. Even though he is not of the highest class, Tango seems to be one of the more heroic characters in the movie. Which just shows that even though the higher class Lords are important and powerful, the middle class are the people who care and end up doing the right thing in the end (Cardullo).
Hidetora’s jester Kyoami also showcases a different social class. He is dressed in brightly colored clothes and it is obvious to the audience that he is not exactly middle class but not high class either. Although it is unsure as to where he resides, he is always surrounding Hidetora which means he is somewhat upper middle class. This also showing that Hidetora, before he was banished by his son, had been very upper-class to have a personal jester follow him around at all times, as well as others who are there to protect him. Kyoami does not have any power in the movie and in some ways may be looked down upon because of his lack of power. But he becomes an important character because he is the only one who stays with Hidetora throughout the entire film.
Many of the other warriors in the movie do not wear as extravagant clothing but instead wear battle armor. Again, the costumes showcases their social standing in the clan. Instead of standing out, all of the warriors are dressed the same to look like they are one. No one of the warriors are above the next. Each warrior fights in the battles for the Lord in which they support and are seen as above the average civilian (Cardullo).
During the battle scenes, there are many gruesome shots of the warriors running around very bloody and some with arrows sticking out of them. Because of their lower class, compared to the Lord’s, these shots are simply to showcase the amount of men being slaughtered. There is no background to these men, just quick cuts from one to another. Even though these men are enduring more pain than the upper-class men, the audience still knows nothing about them due to the fact there are so many and that they are middle class. If they were more upper-class or had an overall importance in the film, most of the important characters are upper-class, they would have a more dramatic death. When Lord Jiro gets murdered, he is the only person in the scene and therefore it is more important and influential to the plot of the movie because of his higher status and power.
The women in the Ichimonji clan do not seem to have too much importance. They were merely there to take after their husbands and not have any say in most matters. But, the women of Lord Hidetora were dressed in beautiful kimonos, which could be associated with upper-class. Lady Kaede is one of the women who is the highest on the social ladder. She is not only married to Lord Jiro, but also has the power to manipulate things to go the way she wants it to. She would not be able to destroy the entire Ichimonji clan without being so high in society. But her manipulative nature obviously helped her scheme pull through as well (Richie).
Ran does not showcase as many different social classes as some of Kurosawa’s other movies. Although there are some very distinct different ladders of the social class system in the movie, most of the characters belong to the upper-class. Perhaps that is why most of the main characters are selfish and power hungry. When thinking about society today, many upper-class people resemble the same characteristics. Kurosawa showcases this perfectly and informs the audience that even though these men are high and mighty, they can still be brought down to their lowest points when greed and power become involved.