Second Draft

Blood and Gunpowder

Posted in Research by Jill Snider Lum on Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TCM is running a festival of films by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa every Tuesday evening this month.  Last night, being interested for various reasons in Japanese history, I turned it on and watched ‘Throne of Blood’ for the first time.

Even if Japanese history isn’t your thing, this film is a treat.  Openly based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, it takes place in feudal Japan… and though I have been so far unable to verify this, it looks to be set in the same part of the Sengoku period as our novel.

It’s Kurosawa, so it’s wonderful — I’m a big fan, and I’m by no means alone.  But quite apart from the quality of the film-making and the acting, it was so much fun to see people as they would appear in our book, particularly samurai mounted on horseback, fighting with bows and arrows and spears, and not a gun in sight.  Our book is like that, being set before the Portuguese introduced firearms to Japan.

There seems a more attractive, imagination-inspiring quality to the idea of battles fought before gunpowder.  Weapons were hand-made, and their mechanical function was basic — plain physics, without the involvement of chemistry.  The weapon did nothing automatically, so that the man wielding it had to have training and a great deal of practiced skill to use it properly.  And tactics had to be different from today’s fighting methods, and the differences are fascinating.  Dornford Yates says “gunpowder killed the romance of the battlefield”, and I know what he means — even though I believe the only good war is either virtual or fictional.

But I digress.  Watching ‘Throne of Blood’ improved my visualization of what kind of world the characters in Demon Gate inhabit, and how they relate to that world and do each other.  And besides that, it’s a great movie, impossible not to recommend.


One Response to 'Blood and Gunpowder'

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  1. Allan Goodall said,

    While I’ve seen it suggested that Throne of Blood takes place in the 1400s, I’ve never seen a definitive answer as to when it was set. I’ve also seen it suggested that Throne of Blood, along with Seven Samurai and Hidden Fortress, take place in an historically based era of Kurosawa’s invention, that he never actually intended to fix it in a specific time periods.

    Regardless, Throne of Blood is on my research list (to rewatch; I have the DVD) when I finally get to writing The Silver Pavilion later this year (only have four other projects to complete before then…)

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