Film: Kagemusha

"To occupy Kyoto, to fly my flags in the capital, has been my long-cherished dream. But... if something should happen to me, do not pursue that dream. Remember: my death must not be made known. Keep it a secret, for at least three years. Guard our domain. Never move from it. Do not move! If you ignore my order and set out to attack, our Takeda clan will be no more. Heed my words! This... is my final wish."
Shingen Takeda

Kagemusha (影武者) is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa and Ishiro Honda. The title (literally "Shadow Warrior" in Japanese) is a term used for an impersonator. It is set in the Sengoku period of Japanese history and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying warlord in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan. The warlord whom the kagemusha impersonates is based on daimyo Takeda Shingen, and the film ends with the climactic 1575 Battle of Nagashino.

Akira Kurosawa returns to the samurai film and to a primary theme of his career—the play between illusion and reality. Sumptuously reconstructing the splendor of feudal Japan and the pageantry of war, Kurosawa creates a historical epic that is also a meditation on the nature of power.

Portraying both Takeda Shingen and the kagemusha is Tatsuya Nakadai, prized theater actor who has been working with Kurosawa as early as Yojimbo. Tsutomu Yamazaki, another well-known character actor, potrays Takeda Nobukado, Shingen's brother and a former kagemusha of Shingen himself. Daisuke Ryu plays the younger and more ambitious Oda Nobunaga.

Produced by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, admirers of the Japanese master, the film was described by Kurosawa as a dress rehearsal for Ran, which was released five years later. (Nakadai and Ryu would later reunite as father-and-son Lord Hidetora and Saburo, respectively, in Ran.)

Kagemusha provides examples of: