Rashomon is a Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa and released in 1950. The use of contrasting colors, silent film, flashback narratives, and various camera positions and angles are among the film’s notable features. Rashomon is a social problem thriller since it addresses issues such as deceit, manipulation, and self-interest that people face in society. The film’s plot revolves around a mystery. It is a story about four witnesses whom all tell the same story but with different viewpoints. The narrations are told in flashbacks, and the listener is left to determine who is telling the truth in the end. The main actors in the film include Tajomaru (the Bandit), the Priest, the Woodcutter, the Commoner, the Samurai, and Samurai’s wife (Kurosawa). This essay presents a short discussion of the film on the themes and camera techniques; and finally reflection on the film review experience. One of the themes displayed in the film is the complexity of characters’ lives (Janaro and Altshuler). It is evident through contradiction between their deeds and moral principles that is proved by a situation when the four witnesses give contradicting accounts about a murder. The second theme is the observance of rules of probability in the film’s context (Janaro and Altshuler).The Priest indicates that he has lost hope in humanity. However, at the end of the film, there is hope or at least the probability of the Priest believing in humanity again. There is a possibility of a new beginning marked by the birth of a baby and clearing of the dark clouds. Concerning the depiction of gender roles, they are unequal. Women abuse is also another theme as shown by how the Samurai’s wife was badly treated by his husband and even raped by the Bandit. The woman is portrayed as a weak person who is inferior to the man in the film. This dehumanization of the women is typical of what was happening during those times. Another theme is multiplicity. The film has skillfully used this unique style to narrate events surrounding the death of the Samurai from different perspectives. The use of multiplicity has not only allowed the story to be told, but it has also made it difficult to really understand what happened because of the divergent versions. Hence, this style is unique to this movie.
The director used different camera positions, angles and shots to achieve various viewing experiences. When the woodcutter is going into the woods, tracking shots are used. This method is a good example of how this art allows to actually collect evidence and know that there was a crime scene. Point-of-view method is also used when the woodcutter is recounting his testimony of the murder. It was possible to follow and closely watch how the Samurai was murdered from the point of view of the woodcutter. Close-ups have also been largely applied especially when showing the scenes of the Samurai, his wife and the bandit. This process serves to emphasize their triangular relationship. The film resembled theatre as they share some techniques such as use of flashbacks.
This film was engaging and offered me, as a viewer, the opportunity to determine whose testimony was true. I felt as though I was one of the characters. The fact that the witnesses are recounting the story while facing the viewer made me feel that they were actually telling the story to me while I was the judge. Kurosawa is often praised for discussing the unknowability of human wrongdoing that did help understand the nature of human beings better. From this film I have learned that it is good to hear all sides of the story before you judge, bearing in mind that none of the stories could be true. Additionally, I have learned that humans are self-centered and can lie even to themselves, hence I can describe this kind of experience as apollonian. The film employs many techniques from editing, sound, camera techniques to the dynamics procedure. In summary, I recommend this film to watch as it has a profound sense to think of.
Janaro, Richard Paul, and Thelma C. Altshuler. The art of being human: The humanities as a technique for living. Pearson, 2017.
Kurosawa, Akira, et al. Rashōmon. Daiei Film, 1950.