Kagemusha still
, , , , , ,
180 min.
Release Date
Kagemusha poster

Kagemusha opens with a six-minute shot, the longest of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s career. Shingen Takeda, a feudal lord known as a daimyo, sits on a platform, center frame. Two almost identical-looking men sit opposite him in the frame, and all three face out as though on a stage. To Shingen’s right sits his brother, Nobukado, who often dresses like his sibling to deceive their enemies. His back straight, Nobukado strokes his mustache in a gesture mimicking Shingen. Seated both in front of and to Shingen’s left is a thief, hunched and looking downward; he bears an uncanny resemblance to Shingen and has been made up to resemble the daimyo. Together, they look like triplets. Both Shingen and the thief are played by the same actor, Tatsuya Nakadai. Achieved with a convincing split-screen effect, the shot presents reality and illusion; Shingen next to his kagemusha, meaning “shadow warrior,” or double. The dialogue in the sequence notes the minor differences between the men, but by the end of Kurosawa’s epic, the distinctions between the lord and his doppelgänger will be all but eradicated. Reality and illusion will be indecipherable, at least in how the thief sees himself and behaves. Kagemusha is a film about how a fantasy can become real, expressing the director’s career-long obsession with how chimerical beliefs can dramatically alter how one perceives reality.

The full 3,500-word essay is currently posted on Patreon. Join Deep Focus Review’s Patron community, and you’ll receive exclusive access to this essay and many other reviews and blogs published on Patreon first.

Patrons also get access to:

• Exclusive weekly blog posts
• Streaming recommendations every Friday
• Polls to pick the movies reviewed on Deep Focus Review and Patreon
• Pick your own “Reader’s Choice” review (at the Screenwriter tier or higher)
• Polls that decide the next entry in The Definitives

Become a Patron!

Recent Articles

  1. The Definitives: Kagemusha
  2. The Scrappy Independents of Mumblegore
  3. Reader's Choice: Creep 2
  4. Reader's Choice: The Innkeepers
  5. Reader's Choice: The House of the Devil
  6. Reader's Choice: Creep
  7. Reader's Choice: A Horrible Way to Die
  8. Reader's Choice: The Royal Hotel
  9. Reader's Choice: Last Action Hero
  10. Reader's Choice: Anatomy of a Fall