The Distinctive Style
Akira Kurosawa opens Rashomon with a scene of three men sheltering from the rain under the ruins’ gates of Kyoto’s ancient city which talks about the truth of subjective perception. They do not have any topics they want to talk about. One important thing they have just witnessed in a police court investigation. The case tells the story of a bandit, Tajomaru, who raped a woman in the forest and killed a man. In the following scenario, Tajomaru rides a horse from the dead man he just killed, assumedly. The two witnesses to the third-person investigation became skeptical because of the case.
Hollywood might have made a murder mystery a courtroom genre in the trim material. On the other hand, Kurosawa created Rashomon, the most famous Japanese film, and turned the gross crime count into a meditation on human nature. In addition to the film that most people watch at the time until the current era, he emphasizes the possibility of human goodness while asserting the reality of desire destructively. With a bewildering theme with unusual depth, Kurosawa presents the film in a distinctive style that more Russian silent films have influenced. Rather than being influenced by Hollywood classics of the ’30s, the film piqued audiences’ curiosity worldwide. It became one of the most influential films of the 1950s. In addition, it also inspires sluggish people.
In the first sequence, the first thing the audience hears is, “I just don’t understand.” The priest, who said that, spoke to a commoner and a woodcutter. He refers to the story of violent death, possibly a sexual assault, in 12th-century Japan. The details of one tormenting afternoon in the woods do not quite fixture; they do not affix up because they come from at least four opposed people. It does not include the priest himself. A bandit kills a samurai. In addition, the bandit also raped his wife. Each scenario involves a deranged character who commits murder and rape. At first glance, the film seems like a messy film.
Like people who watch at the time, especially the Japanese, Rashomon becomes more strange but subjective with the changing times, truth, and perception. The story has many points of view, involving the side of the story belonging to a dead samurai, who speaks at trial through an intermediary. Kurosawa wrote and directed the film, operating as an expressionist tale about how messy people are in the film. In the meantime, before shooting for the film started, three of Kurosawa’s assistants came to see him. They are not happy and do not understand the story. He told his three assistants that if they read the screenplay diligently, they should be able to understand it because he wrote the narrative in order for people to understand. However, the three of them said they believed they had read it carefully and still did not understand it.
The strands of time intertwine with each other, thus creating meditation. Under the gates of Rashomon, time is idle, empty, yet dead. In the forest, passion and anxiety fill the time. The narrative tells the theme of honor and lives at stake. Kurosawa first broke through the gap between the two strands with two minutes of pure cinema. Enchantingly, it combines the strands with sixteen continuously varying motion shots. On the other hand, stories always await in such a delay. Therefore, it gives birth to a new scene, like the Rashomon gate, which represents the time of death. However, the rhythm’s impulses and energy connect the strands with events in the forest. The two minutes do not advance the plot at all.
Still, Rashomon is subjective to the audience’s film experience with such truth and perception. For the woodcutter’s progress into the deepest forest, using a flow of movement that almost hypnotizes the audience, cuts and camera movements become the audience’s progress into the most profound film. When he stops, the audience is on the set, becoming the centralist of the film. Three men in the rain at the gate became a chorus in commenting on the case out in the open. Kurosawa released the film in 1950, introducing Japanese filmmaking to the world. However, his reputation as a film feather-in-one’s-cap deviates from his final status as a gospel mark that is hard for people to understand.
The Rashomon Effect
Honestly, the film is not a hindrance as a reference. The status of masterpieces began to emerge thanks to an era of revolutionary structures. It messes with the literary conventions of a very reliable narrator. However, the same incident Kurosawa kept changing from a competing perspective. So, the audience is not always sure what to believe. Such destabilization makes the film an experience. People, too, and many professors and even scholars, refer to Rashomon‘s effect on psychology, literature, art, philosophy, and law. Therefore, the film gives birth to a few minor mysteries like the films The Usual Suspects and Gone Girl. In essence, the film treats Kurosawa’s mixed-use approach to truth as an image of storytelling.
The appropriation of abbreviations also throws away the film itself, rather than who is lying. The film is not as great as most of Kurosawa’s other films, such as Seven Samurai. However, it still gave off a very drunken drink. The black-and-white cinematography also manages the light’s performance, making the shadows look so vivid. In most of Kurosawa’s works, the film is very blurry yet dull, etched sharply in the middle, so much of the narrative is blurry. In the film, the comments from each character are always unbelievable. The three perpetrators of such a crime each tell a completely different story about the death of a samurai. Each of them also pleaded guilty to the murders.
The Subjective Perception
Each character, one to another, tells the case; it always maintains a self-image of an honor. In the transition, the woodcutter provides a fourth narrative, similar in outline to the bandit version. However, it is very different in detail. The man said that it was true. The woodcutter replied that he was not lying. Of the four narratives, the woodcutter may be the only one the audience knows has lied. It is because he told a different story before. With all the strings in subjective perception, some audiences have treated Rashomon as a puzzle of truth they have to solve.
They had to insist that there must be a murder story they could find if they sorted out the clues carefully. However, the film is a statement about relativism, and not always people can find out. In essence, there is no truth. It is just a subjective perception of such cases. According to Kurosawa, when his assistants asked to explain the script, he replied that humans could not be honest with themselves. They cannot always talk about themselves without beautifying the aesthetic. In the film, it depicts humans, as Kurosawa said. It is about the kind who cannot survive without lying to realize they are a better person.
The Naturalism of Interpretation
Melodrama and naturalism always fill Kurosawa and his actors from various aspects in a blur. It blends the audience from seeing how the jury of the trial opens. In short, the camera always sits in an authority’s position, emphasizing that the audience is playing the role of a jury and acting as a third-person witness. Meanwhile, the defendants always sat on the gravel lawn to testify. During the film’s production, Kurosawa asked his actor to watch documentaries about wildlife. The film tells the story of a panther and lion doing things like a panther and a lion. Both in court and the forest, he wanted them to simulate the physique of each other’s animals.
The ambiguity of literal meaning encourages symbolic interpretation, aside from the camera. Of the many interpretations, the allegory of Japanese history, with the repetition of the country’s culture is always the Japanese barbarians, becomes the common sense of such an interpretation. Rashomon aims with the truth of subjective perception for Japan’s future, especially at the appearance of a baby at the film’s end. The last interpretation might be that the dominant western orientalism always takes influence from many traditional Japanese films, especially at the end. The film emphasizes the complex intertextuality of thematic and narrative plots comprehensively. Kurosawa’s films have always questioned the nature of cinema, especially the film, as truth. It is because it acts as more than the senses in general.
The Narrative Cinema
From a proverb about truth and belief, it applies to several belief systems that people can debate, such as the existence of extraterrestrials, religious skepticism, or conspiracies about the prediction of the apocalypse. In cinema, it remains so powerful because it uses the power of sight. Indirectly, it turns the reality of vision into escape through art. Cinema does not only act as the truth of one frame. Instead, it always serves as a philosophical polish in a film. Kurosawa, basically, consistently lied to his camera and audience. Indeed, various statements about the power of visuals as the truth of cinema always offer a participatory role to the audience in determining which testimonies are true.
Therefore, the audience always pays attention to how the court inquisitor never appears on the screen. However, they are always behind the camera, as if the testimony each character gives always presents evidence in the audience’s existential trial. The bets on the table require the audience to determine what is happening in the forest at the time. As a result, audiences always decide how they feel about the truth about the film. The feeling of liberation that the film brings to young filmmakers is less than a response to the enigmatic theme. By acting as Kurosawa’s violation of the established rules of narrative cinema, many young people made the strand a new fad.
- Anderson, R. (2016). The Rashomon effect and communication. Canadian Journal of Communication, 41(2), 249.
- Redfern, N. (2013). Film style and narration in Rashomon. Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, 5(1-2), 21-36.
- Richie, D., & Mellen, J. (1998). The Films of Akira Kurosawa. Univ of California Press.