Journal of Film Music, Vol 3, No 1 (2010)

Gaze from the Heavens, Ghost from the Past: Symbolic Meanings in Toru Takemitsu’s Music for Akira Kurosawa’s Film, Ran (1985)

Tomoko Deguchi
Issued Date: 22 Dec 2010


In this essay I discuss two types of music that Takemitsu composed for Kurosawa’s Ran (1985), for which Shakespeare’s King Lear provides the narrative. The first type is the solo flute music that is written in the style of traditional Japanese music, notably for the Noh Theater. The second type of music is the Mahler-inspired symphonic music. The two types of music, comprised of opposing musical attributes, signify the intricately related meanings of text, jo-ha-kyu form, dramatic characterization, and Buddhist philosophy as background of the film, enhancing the film’s many symbolic meanings and connotations. More significantly, through the differences in the compositional styles of the two types of music, Takemitsu brings into the light two seemingly veiled omnipresences of the film: the blind hermit Tsurumaru for whom the flute is virtually his identity, and the gaze of the heavens as representing the vulnerable existence of humankind as a whole within history.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/jfm.v3i1.51


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy