7. Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957)
Kurosawa made a magnificent cinematic adaptation of King Lear in 1985, near the end of his career, but Throne of Blood just edges it for me as the classic Kurosawa Shakespeare. Its original Japanese title is Kumonosu-jo, which roughly translates into English as “Spider Web Castle”, and wonderful though Throne of Blood is as a title, it is a shame that “Spider Web Castle” was not retained, because it is the perfect image of the strength and fragility that Macbeth (here, General Washizu) combines. Kurosawa not only translated the play from stage to screen (although he used elements of the formal and stylised Japanese noh theatre, particularly in the performance of his Lady Macbeth) but from English to Japanese. In doing so, he showed that what mattered in filming Shakespeare was not just capturing the letter (the text) of a play but its spirit (its ideas, themes and subtext). In Macbeth, that spirit is the sense of evil foreboding that encapsulates the play, and Kurosawa portrays it in the shadowy world of the Spider Web Forest, where Macbeth/Washizu first meets the witches, and which his enemies ultimately use to conceal themselves as they advance upon him.