I have watched "Kagemusha" on my laptop only a few days back and still was lurking around Nandan II in the afternoon for a special screening of the film yesterday. The only reason was that I was quite desperate to see the brilliantly colorful war film on big screen. And what a treat it turned out to be!!
The film opens with quite a lengthy scene where a Japanese warlord Shingen, his brother Nobukada and a thief who looks exactly like the lord sits on the floor. The three people are dressed identically, sitting postures almost same and lip movements rarely discernible when they speak. Through this long shot the camera stays stationary and Kurosawa successfully hints at the confusion that will be unfolded regarding the true identity of the lord. The double is trained in the ways of the lord and when Shingen dies in a battle, the kagemusha replaces him to baffle the enemy warlords. He does extremely well, both on battle and home fronts and continues to baffle the enemy for three long years.
Kagemusha is predominantly a war-film. But as the film progresses, it evolves into something much more than a simple war epic. The inner conflicts of the kagemusha, depicted very well in a wonderfully colorful surrealistic dream sequence sets up an undertone of existential dilemma. The kagemusha is after all a shadow of the lord, only for three years. And then when it is to be announced that the lord is no more, what is to happen to him? As Nobukada puts it aptly, "The shadow of a man can never stand up and walk on its own.". Indeed in the end, the kagemusha follows the Takeda clan to the warfield much like a shadow and collapses as the whole clan goes down.
The film boasts of some wonderfully crafted scenes. Kurosawa seems to have mastered the color medium as well. The vibrant and often astonishing set designs provide a great spectacle for the viewers. From the black silhouettes against the red and purple backdrops on the warfields to the golden and brown interiors of the castle, the film is a visual feast. Especially on a big screen. And this very fact makes us overlook one of the biggest flaws of the film, its pace. Kurosawa builds up the atmosphere in a snail slow pace. The film often seems to be moving around the same point and one cannot but feel that a bit of editing would have done well. But then, the wonderful lead performance and the stunning imageries makes up for everything.