Heroism in Ran
Normally in Kurosawa’s films the hero is prominent and immediately recognizable from the beginning of the film. They are usually selfless, courageous and looked up to by many. Seeking the good and defeating the evil are anecdotes for the hero in many of Kurosawa’s films. The heroism seen in Ran is quite different and difficult to pinpoint because of the complex characters who are not exactly how they seem. Even though many characters in Ran are powerful, many are just that. Full of power and wanting more. There are several different characters who turn on each other and most of them happen to be in the same family (Kenber).
An obvious choice for the hero at the beginning of the movie would be Lord Hidetora or one of his three sons who are the heir to his throne. They seem high, mighty and powerful and capable of having the abilities to lead. Because of their high social status and fancy clothes, Lord Hidetora and his sons even look somewhat heroic. Soon enough, though, we learn the truth about these characters and heroism becomes harder to define as the movie moves on.
Lord Hidetora who seems to be one of the first contenders as a hero in the film is soon knocked down from his position. After handing over his Ichimonji clan, he is pushed to the side by his two older sons. Banishing his youngest son and his servant Tango for speaking the truth, the audience sees how unpleasant and close minded he is. Then, being shunned by his oldest son who has now taken over, he begins to lose his grip on things and lets the demise of his clan get to him and he slowly begins to lose his mind. Not being able to help his people, his heroic identity is taken from him. Not only has his clan being taken from him, the audience learns of many crude and unruly things that Lord Hidetora has done in the past. Instead of coming into power the right way, he tormented and slaughtered anyone that stood in his way. One family caught up in the slaughtering was of Lord Taro’s wife Lady Kaede. Climbing to the top and taking down anyone who stood in his was. Not selfless at all, but full of hate and selfishness.
After finally realizing how awful he had been to good people, compassion is finally shown and he ends up feeling bad for the people whose families he had taken out. Even though he finally sees the light, it is too late for him to be any sort of hero. He has slowly gone insane and eventually becomes ill with amnesia, trying to forget the horrible things he has done and trying to avoid seeing his clan go down in flames by his own sons. One of the heroic qualities Hidetora does possess is his attempt to patch his relationship up with his youngest son, who ended up being right about the clan’s destruction if left to the older two. Even though he is not in his right state of mind, he keeps pushing forward to find Saburo. Hidetora is not a bad person, but does not have the heroic qualities normally seen in a Kurosawa film, and does not seem to act as a Lord should.
Lord Taro and Jiro seem to be the opposite of a hero that would be seen in Kurosawa’s films. Not exactly a villain, but completely selfish and drunk with power. After Lord Taro takes over the First Castle and Lord Jiro takes over the Second Castle, the two become so overwhelmed with power that they do not know what to even do with it. Thus betraying their father and bringing down the entire Ichimonji clan. Attacking the Third Castle, which results in Taro’s death by one of Jiro’s assassinates, they send their father into a state of insanity. After the death of Taro, Jiro again commits the unthinkable and has an affair with his dead brother’s wife, Lade Kaede. All of these things destroy what was given to them and they seem to disregard any chivalric duties that a hero might emit.
Lady Kaede, who schemes to bring the entire Ichimonji clan down is probably the closest to a villain the audience gets in Ran. She is conniving, crazed, and full of hatred towards Lord Hidetora and for good reason. After putting words into her hudband’s ear to take over the clan and run it on her terms, she ends up seducing Lord Jiro after he killed her husband and convincing him to kill his wife. Succeeding in tearing apart Hidetora’s family and clan, she is then killed but the damage had already been done and the clan would never be the same.
Saburo, Hidetora’s youngest son, and his servant Tango, seem to be two characters who possess the most heroic qualities in the film. Although they are not seen as much as Hidetora or the older two brothers, the heroic impact of their characters ends up solving most of the problems happening. Saburo at the beginning attempts to let his father know how badly things will turn out if he proceeds in making his two older sons Lord’s of the two largest parts of the clan. Even after Hidetora banishes Saburo and Tango, they still try to help when things take a turn for the absolute worse. Saburo and Tango protect Hidetora as he slowly declines into a state of insanity and attempt to reconcile the Ichimonji clan, even though his father turned against him in the beginning. Saburo is able to put away any hatred towards his father and help protect what he once stood for and proceeds to take him back to the Third Castle. Tango stays true to Hidetora as well and at one point even attempts to inform him of what is happening, but his loyalty is not accepted at the time and Hidetora shoos him away. After the last battle, Saburo is shot but not for his lack of heroic attributes (Kenber).
In the end, the clan is still fallen, the villainous characters are slain as are some of few heroes, and Lord Hidetora is still suffering from insanity. Not the common ending to a Kurosawa movie and not a common set of characters either. It works with the story, though, and even though there are no real “heroes” the heroic character is still present. Kurosawa manages to keep heroism present by having a lack of heroes. Because these men do not have heroic characteristics the audience sees what is happening to this clan by them. The destruction is more shocking because there is no one there to save these people until the end, and then hope is lost once Saburo gets shot.