The story line is superb ... the scenery is stunning and gorgeous, vast mountains and green valleys, walled castles and fortresses. Hidetora, the aging warlord, holds a conference with his three sons and local chieftains on a mountainside. He announces his decision to relinquish the leadership of his kingdom to the eldest of his three sons. Only one son, the youngest, dares to speak up and state that during his lifetime he has known only war and fighting, he predicts the same after the transfer of power. He believes there will be power struggles between his two older brothers due to jealousy. The youngest brother personally has no desire to be warlord. Hidetora planned to leave one castle to each of his three sons. He has each son hold an arrow and asks them to break it in half, which they easily do. He gives them in succession, three arrows bundled together, representing the unity of the family, none can break the bundle. This is Hidetora's example of how the family will remain strong if they remain unified. He envisions the House of Ichimanji to be powerful and his eldest son to be overlord of the kingdoms attained during Hidetora's own reign of power. In his anger, Hidetora banishes the youngest son accusing him of defying his wishes ... Yet Subarua, the youngest, holds his father in esteem and respect throughout the predicted battles which come to pass.
Hidetora visits Taro's castle after the power transfer and finds his concubines have to bow and kneel to Taro's wife, Sue'. They are forced to move out. Hidetora discovers after the transfer of power, he is no longer respected. Sue' married into the family to consolidate land holdings and property attained as the spoils of war, a war in which her parents were murdered. She harbored revenge in her heart ever since and now urges her husband to fight his brother, Jiro. Hidetora's court jester creates a mocking song about Taro being like a gourd, spinning this way and spinning that way, implying he can not make a sound decision and stick with it. At a family gathering Taro hears the song and is outraged ... In a surprise move, Hidetora and his guards leave to visit Jiro. Hidetora discovers he is not welcome there either, not at all what he expected. He left abruptly ...
The treachery to gain power and control over the lands and castles by the two older brothers consumes them. As predicted by Subaru, the younger brother, war is inevitable. Local chieftains must decide where their loyalties lie, which brother to support. Hidetora goes into hiding. Eventually he goes mad. His only guard and caregiver, the jester, does not leave his side. This film contains very strong battle scenes. The desire for control and power is the true motivator for both older brothers. Loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear, this Japanese version is astonishing in scope and grandeur. The costumes and scenery are fabulous. In the film, there are tender moments between the jester and Hidetora. There are moving scenes where Jiro's wife escapes to find her brother who was blinded in a past conquest and lives alone in a cottage ... The producers and directors create a phenomenal ending and conclusion. At some point, Hidetora reawakens from his madness long enough to recognize the impact of his decision on his family and the near destruction of the kingdom he once ruled. The ending is climactic and leaves a major impression on the viewer. The film is spectacular.
Erika Borsos (erikab93