|Machiko Kyô||Masako Kanazawa|
|Masayuki Mori||Takehiro Kanazawa|
Genre: Crime drama
Run Time: 83 min
Director: Akira Kurosawa
A priest, a woodcutter and another man are taking refuge from a rainstorm in the shell of a former gatehouse called Rashômon. The priest and the woodcutter are recounting the story of a murdered samurai whose body the woodcutter discovered three days earlier in a forest grove. Both were summoned to testify at the murder trial, the priest who ran into the samurai and his wife traveling through the forest just before the murder occurred. Three other people who testified at the trial are supposedly the only direct witnesses: a notorious bandit named Tajômaru, who allegedly murdered the samurai and raped his wife; the white veil cloaked wife of the samurai; and the samurai himself who testifies through the use of a medium. The three tell a similarly structured story - that Tajômaru kidnapped and bound the samurai so that he could rape the wife - but which ultimately contradict each other... (By Huggo)
By Bill Thompson
I have developed the trend of pointing out simplicity in movies that I review, and no film is more deserving of the simple moniker than Rashômon. It is full of complex ideas and thought, but it is presented in a simple fashion, although in its simplicity it ends up being very complex, and it's core message is very simple. As you can tell, that's a whole lot of simple. But, don't confuse simplicity with mediocre or bad, because Rashômon is a great movie and an all time classic.
The story of Rashômon is its message and its theme. A rape has possibly occurred while a murder has definitely occurred. What follows is the events as told by four different individuals, the accused murderer, the wife who was raped, the murdered and an innocent bystander. Each tale is different from the previous and therein lies the message of Rashômon. Humans are inherently unable to tell the truth about themselves and thus the truth behind the possible rape and murder will never be known. Each person has their own take on the events and we are left with a sense of bewilderment because each story borrow elements from the other three and they all sound like they could be true. It is in our nature to accept what is told to us, especially on screen, as the truth and in that way Rashômon assaults our sensibilities by presenting us with four different truths and not telling us which one is reality and which ones are fiction. Rashômon is not about what happened, it is about what happens afterward and how humans embellish what happens and do so only to look out for themselves and save face. A lot of Akira Kurosawa's movies deal with the idea of community, but Rashômon deals with the idea of the individual and takes a very cynical outlook on the individual within humanity.
However, when all is said and done even Kurosawa's most cynical work offers a hopeful outlook. By taking in the orphaned child the Woodcutter provides us with the hope that humanity can look out for others. Even when it has been shown to be at its worst we are given a final image that reaffirms our belief that people are good, kind and not the selfish beasts we are shown for the previous hour and fifteen minutes of Rashômon.
Of note as well would be the brilliant camera work, including the innovative technique of pointing the camera at the sun or using mirrors to create better sunlight. The use of the forest was also a nice touch, it created a claustrophobic feel and accompanied the manic nature of the murder/rape scenes. The actual storytelling method of various flashbacks was innovative at the time and years later it has not lost any of its luster in Rashômon.
Rashômon is perhaps the best introduction to the works of Kurosawa that one will find. It is isn't long or epic like some of his other works and it plays on basic human traits that we can all relate to. It goes without saying, but I'm redundant so I'll say it anyways, that Rashômon is a film that everyone needs to see. Introduce yourself to Kurosawa with this film, or to the incredibly talented Mifune, or if you have already been exposed to those two then watch them again in one of their finest works.