CANNES (Reuters) – Japanese director Takeshi Kitano said that he held back in showing too much blood and gore in “Kubi”, his new ultraviolent samurai film that features beheadings faster than can be counted.
The filmmaker, who is also a painter, actor and comedian, spent three decades researching and writing a novel and screenplay focused on the ambush at the Honno-ji Temple in Kyoto in 1582 that, in “Kubi”, is shown in the gory detail familiar to fans of Kitano’s previous works.
“During the Sengoku (civil war) period, the way they appraised warriors was how many enemy’s heads they beheaded, especially heads of the top samurais who had black teeth, which symbolizes the samurai’s superiority,” he said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday. “They were persistent during the civil war period,” he added.
The Honno-ji Temple ambush targeting warlord Oda Nobunaga was orchestrated by one of his own generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, whose motive remains unknown and has been fodder for several works over the years.
Kitano said that the violence reflected how battles were fought at the time and that the film actually held back.
“The way they fought … it’s very barbaric, so we tried to limit ourselves from showing too much,” said Kitano.
Reviews of the film begged to differ, describing it as “brutal” and “vicious”, with the critic for entertainment news outlet Vulture writing that it had “more beheadings per minute than any feature film I’ve seen in a while”.
The samurai of “Kubi” are, in Kitano’s eyes, not so different from the yakuza crime syndicate members portrayed in his previous film that showed at Cannes, 2010’s “The Outrage”.
The samurai are trying to get to the top of the food chain by being the toughest fighters, “but they are not smart. So it’s like a fight between male gangsters,” said Kitano. “All they could think about was fighting and moving up.”
(Reporting by Mike Davidson; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Alex Richardson)