|Image from the imdb.com site.|
The movie opens with a shot of Ishida Mitsunari and a couple of his offsiders on the field at Sekigahara prior to the battle. Ishida Mitsunari is played by pop idol Okada Junichi. This put my wife off straight away. I guess it's a bit like casting Justin Bieber as, say, Alfred the Great: you couldn't get past the fact that it's Justin Bieber, and if you don't like Justin Bieber then, well, tough luck. It didn't bother me though because I don't know J-pop idols from bars of soap, but it did mean that from then on I was watching by myself!
The back story is quite convoluted. Dozens of characters are introduced in rapid succession, often by way of flashbacks, which quickly become overwhelming. After about an hour we find that there are a dozen or so key figures, and once we've sorted out who they are things settle down and the plot lines become easier to follow, even if aspects of the characters' motivations will probably require repeat viewings to properly reveal themselves.
There are a lot of scenes included to illustrate personality. Again, these will enrich the movie as you watch it again, but like a man tipped into a fast flowing river, I was too busy grabbing for the biggest logs to take proper notice of all the smaller bits and pieces rushing by. In real time you could feel the intent but scenes happened too swiftly for me to follow and properly order all the things that the director was presenting. I would suggest this is a deliberate effect: the pace induces in the viewer a state of slightly panicked confusion, analogous to that of Ishida's, around whom events unfold faster than he can understand, and then unravel further just when he believes he has found means to assert some control.
The battle scenes are closely shot, and the people on screen probably never number more than about 150 at any one time. It's not quite history channel level (ten reenactors representing the Tenth Legion for example), but the scale of the battle is implied rather than shown. It is the personal moments that count, and the larger action of the battle is shown through its effect on key characters.
Essentially a tragedy focused on the person of Ishida Mitsunari, I enjoyed Sekigahara first time and it has grown on me the more I think about it.
The acting felt well done, it was beautifully shot, and some scenes have stayed in the mind as particularly memorable. There was a lot to take in and a lot to enjoy, and the Tokugawa Ieyasu character was a very interesting portrayal.
I will give myself another week to think about it then watch it again.
Overall it was an impressive bit of film-making and I would thoroughly recommend it. Just be ready to be overwhelmed, and to need to watch it again!