Camera Movement in Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s final epic movie Ran showcases many of the same camera movement techniques as in his other films. He uses a wider screen format in many films to allow the audience to see everything going on in the scene. Esthetic and symbolic balances are laid out upon the different settings, especially in the opening scene in Ran. Interesting camera angles are maintained, but wide group compositions are shot from a more direct point of view. Kurosawa also can focus on certain details with the movement of his camera which allows the audience to see exactly what he intends them to. Kurosawa using the panning method, often in the battle scenes in Ran, gives the audience a sense of being directly in the action. Everything that is happening on large scales like on the battle field or in the middle of the castle is seen because he pans around and gives a different angle and point of view to really give a sense of the everything involved. The camera follows the action seamlessly and the audience becomes a distant observer of the intimate moments and of the epic battle scene.
By shooting scenes in this way, take the opening scene in Ran for example, there is great depth added and the audience is able to see the entire countryside at which the warriors are perched on with their horses. At first there is an uncertainty of where and what they are looking for, but the vastness of area being shot shows rolling hills. The camera allows us to see everything in the distance. With it being such a wide open shot, it is possible for the focus of the scene to be lost in the background. Kurosawa masters this and is able to keep the four warriors crisp and clear with the multi-camera technique. Being one of the first directors to use the multi-camera shot, Kurosawa projects it flawlessly in this scene as well as in the battle scenes. Because not much is going on in this particular scene, the movement comes from the switching of the cameras. Many different shots allow this sequence to flow. Medium, over the shoulder, behind, and long shots are just a few executed in this scene. Along with the different types of shots, above and below angles are used. This puts a sense of power with these warriors, even though the audience is unsure of who they even are. While some of these angles are shot in medium to close-up shots, there are also long shots which still keep the warriors as a focal point. The final shot in the sequence is a huge wide shot and for the first time the warriors are not the focal point. The hills engulf the shot and the audience is shown just how large the area is and how small the warriors look in comparison. Each different shot builds up the anticipation of what might be happening somewhere else. Even though the audience does not know what is going on yet, the sequence allows the audience to know something is going to happen (Richie).
During the full-screen battle scenes Kurosawa tries to do away with the close-ups as much as he can. Because of the many extras in the movie, this helped him prevent bad acting being shown and allowed the camera movement to be acknowledged instead of other aspects. This also allows the audience to not become attached to anyone in particular except the important characters. In the first battle scene where the Third Castle is attacked while Hidetora is still inside, there are quick cuts to the action going on inside the castle as well as outside. From focusing on the men who are bleeding to death, to the enormous amount of men storming the castle, the audience is never set in one place too long. There is too much going on to do so. Kurosawa breaks this up by shooting a wide shot of the sky, which is a recurring symbol, and the audience gets to take a breath and then is thrown back in to the quick camera movement. The camera follows Hidetora in the middle of the battle and pans with him as he makes his way through the falling castle (Parker).
A pivotal moment in the scene is where Lord Taro is shot and killed. The camera is still as Lord Taro rides his horse into the scene and the audience only sees his back, and profile just slightly. For once, the camera is the one being still and the movement happening on the screen belongs to Taro and and surprising gunshot through him, making him and his horse stagger out of view. It is a great shot because of the simplicity. The battle scene is non-stop action so because the action is stopped, it is more jarring and the audience feels anticipation that something might happen because the camera movement has stopped.
In a medium shot, Hidetora’s women are brutally shot right in front of him. The camera is closer to these women because the audience is meant to feel a sense of heart ache for them because they are women and because they were not involved in the battle as warriors. A similar example is a scene in which two women commit suicide in front of Hidetora because they were going to die anyways. The camera stays on the two women and then eventually pans over to another woman getting ready to commit suicide as well. The eyes of the audience do not leave the two dying women until the camera pans away slowly to the third women about to kill herself. Perhaps one of the most influential scenes in the battle sequence is again when the camera is still and the burning castle is the focal point as the two sides of the the battle are standing at the bottom of the castle separated by yellow and red. Hidetora comes out of the burning building and slowly walks down the steps into the sea or yellow and red. The camera is positioned so perfectly and it includes every major part of the battle. The castle that was under attack, the fighting warriors, and of course Hidetora are finally all put together on the screen and makes for a perfect ending to this battle sequence (Prince).
While his battle scenes are shot quickly and from a distance most of the time, Kurosawa can also focus on certain details with the movement of his camera which allows the audience to see exactly what he intends them to. He uses close-ups to feel the emotion of the character. While some of this credit is given to the actor or actress on the screen, the camera angles help put certain characters in a position of power, one important character being Lady Kaede. In the scene in which she tries to seduce Lord Jiro after her husband has just been killed, the two begin the scene at the same level. A medium shot in which the audience can see both and they appear as equals. Once Lady Kaede threatens to blackmail Jiro the jumps on him and once she starts kissing him, the camera puts her in the position of power. The camera is facing up at her as is Jiro which makes her more powerful over him. In many other scenes with Lady Kaede, the same technique is used. In another scene involving her, when she is made a fool of and given the head of a cement fox instead of Jiro’s wife Sue, she still has the upper hand over Jiro. The only reason being that Jiro is sitting and there is an over the should shot focusing on Lady Kaede as she goes on a tangent about what has happened (Richie).
Kurosawa’s amazing use of the camera in Ran really makes the movie and it is still seen as a critical piece of work even today. Kurosawa’s ability to make the camera its own persona takes amazing talent and he pulls it off with impeccable ease. The audience views several epic battles, deaths, and intimate moments. Kurosawa’s camera is able to capture all of these differently and each scene has it’s own feel about it. This is important because Kurosawa wants to make the audience feel a certain way in these situations and the camera movement allows for it.