by Ross PhilipsIn today’s cinema the truly epic battle scene has been replaced by computer generated images. Although the capabilities of CGI to create realistic and sophisticated battle animations have grown incredibly over the last ten years, it’s just not the same as seeing real armies and actual destruction. The most truly epic and beautiful battle scene ever captured on film is not in the Lord of the Rings. It is the attack on Hidetora’s castle, in Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s samurai inspired adaptation of King Lear. In this scene, Lord Hidetora Ichimonji, brilliantly portrayed by Tatsuya Nakadai, is betrayed by his son, Taro, to whom he has bequeathed his crown. Instead of using fast paced editing, sound effects, and handy-cams in order to immerse us in a first person perspective of the battle, Kurosawa uses long takes with the camera watching from high above as thousands of samurai warriors storm the castle. He shows scenes of incredible carnage, piles of bodies strewn with arrows, a man holding his severed arm, another man who has been shot through the eye with an arrow; however, instead of the sounds of battle, Kurosawa plays only the dramatic orchestral score. This allows the audience to reflect on what is being shown. Kurosawa often cuts away from these images of carnage to show the sun shining through the clouds, creating a visual metaphor of the heavens above juxtaposed with hell on earth. It is as if the camera is the eye of God watching from above.The scene ends with Hidetora sitting motionless as arrows fly around his head and his castle burns around him. All of his bodyguards and his concubines have been killed. The troops outside wait for the castle to finish burning down expecting that Hidetora will commit suicide rather than dishonor himself in defeat, but to their amazement Hidetora emerges from the smoke. He slowly walks down the steps towards the samurai army. Instead of attacking him the soldiers move to create a path for him to walk through. Despite his now pitiful state they are unwilling to attack the man who was once their tyrannical leader. As Hidetora walks through the gates of the exterior wall, Kurosawa frames the burning castle behind him. What makes this scene truly amazing is that there is no CGI. Kurosawa built a castle solely for the purpose of burning it down in order to film this one scene. For this reason, each shot in the scene had to be filmed in one take. Kurosawa manages to pull it off flawlessly. When it was released in 1985, Ran the most expensive ever made in Japan; however, this scene set a benchmark of excellence not only for Japan, but also for cinema around the world.