Rashômon (1950)

"You liked Rashômon" "That's not the way I remember it"

Three travellers, a woodcutter, a priest and a commoner, gather under a ruined temple during a storm and discuss a crime the like of which they have not heard of before. As the story goes, a bandit named Tajomaru meets a married couple upon a forest road. The story ends with the wife raped, the husband dead and the bandit arrested for the death. The story of what happened and how the husband ended up dead is told from different perspectives.

In 1950, Akira Kurosawa released Rashômon, the film that was responsible for introducing Western audiences to Japanese cinema. It was clearly a film ahead of it's time, thanks to an ingenious plot, which was powered by terrific performances.

Through the multiple perspectives, Kurosawa manages to change the actions which are taken on by one of the characters, and by doing so, change the views the people watching have on the characters. An example of this is how through one perspective, the Husband is made out to be a cold character, whilst through another perspective, he is made out to be sympathetic and the true victim in all this. But the thing about these perspectives is that they are not reliable, as the overlapping stories cause inconsistencies with one another, and it is left up to the viewer to decide upon which story is the true one, and in which light we view each of the characters.

Or so we think, as one final version of the story is told through another set of eyes, and manages to be revealing as to why there are multiple accounts of the crime which happened. There is one singular reason for the varying perspectives, and that is to make the person recounting the story be looked upon in a different light. By fabricating parts of the story, such as the character's actions and reactions, the one telling the story makes themselves out to be a different type of person from who they truly were when the crime occurred, and by doing so, Kurosawa tangles with the viewers opinions on the characters. I could go into more detail here, but to do so would risk spoilers.

The three characters discussing the story serve as a framing device, to question which of the stories is the most plausible. A theme they manage to bring up and explore is trust in man, as they question which story they should trust to be the most truthful, while the character of the Priest finds himself losing faith and trust in humanity after this crime.

All of the actors manage to do a magnificent job. The trio the crime is centered around give off different portrayals of their characters with each passing perspective, yet they manage to leave enough behind to make the character recognizable enough to make us believe in the actors performances.

The sword fights are very well choreographed for their purpose, which is for nothing too flashy or of a grand scale, allowing the fights to feel more grounded and realistic

Rashômon is a brilliant piece of work from Akira Kurosawa. A smart story elevated by a great amount of originality that had quite a profound influence upon cinema, it is one film that is worth seeing immediately.


Alex Jowski said…
Terrific film! Used to have the Criterion DVD of this which came with the two short stories this movie is based on.
Aditya Gokhale said…
Great review..It is nice to see a perfect score too.

I love this film..am a fan of Kurosawa. This film is also a big statement on the judicial system..how much should one trust the testimony of a witness.? What exactly should be considered as the truth? Is justice ever done?

And just one word of advise..kindly rephrase the part "a smart story reeking of originality"...the word "reek" is mostly used in a negative connotation.
James Rodrigues said…
Thanks for the advice, I shall take it immediately.
H.A.K. said…
good review. I hope to see it soon.
Good review. Completely agree. This is the only film I've seen from Kurosawa. Certainly want to explore more of his work.
H.A.K. said…
I have now seen it and yes indeed, it's a very good film.
James Rodrigues said…
Terrific, thanks for updating me :)
James Rodrigues said…
Same Rohit, thanks for commenting
James Rodrigues said…
Thanks for reading