What is more, the formal, ritualistic rhythms of the film help to create a sense of tragedy as such, rather than merely of sympathy for a particular group of petty, brutal men who die violently. By so distancing the events of the movie from those of daily life, Kurosawa transforms Kagemusha into an enactment of sorrow, delusion, and despair. He gives the movie a real universality and raises it above the specifics of a narrative about some fictional or historical person's unhappy end.
Nevertheless, Kurosawa does evoke another era with considerable skill. There are few film makers who have been as successful in doing so. Most directors imbue their presentations of other ages with the values and conventions of their own time. While it cannot be said that Kurosawa does not do this at all in Kagemusha, he does manage to evoke a world that is often very different from that of the Twentieth Century. The ideals, perspectives, and conventions of behavior depicted in the movie are rarely those of the modern age and are, consequently, genuinely enthralling.
Even the pace of the narrative differs from that of most films, including most of Kurosawa's other works. The director gives Kagemusha an almost dance-like rhythm, one that is, perhaps, more akin to traditional forms of Japanese drama than to the pacing of most modern movies. Thanks to the presence of such elements, Kagemusha is both truly impressive and profoundly affecting.
The film's ability to enthrall the viewer is further enhanced by its remarkable visual beauty. The costumes and sets of Kagemusha are stunning, and the cinematography lovingly presents each moment as a gorgeously realized tableau. The movie's loveliness transports the viewer into its own world and allows him to savor his experience of watching the spectacle being played out before him.
Although Kagemusha may fall short of being a masterpiece, it is, nonetheless, an interesting, important, and impressive work of art.
Review by Keith Allen
Allen. All rights reserved.