One of the most influential films of all time, Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMAN is a masterpiece of the art form and a MUST SEE MOVIE for anyone serious about the history of film.
Based on the short stories “Rashoman” and “In a Grove,” written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the film explores human nature and how we perceive the truth. Revolutionary for its time, RASHOMAN uses a non-linear approach to its narrative and would go on to win the “Grand Prix” at the Venice Film Festival and the Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film.”
The story recounts the events that lead to the murder of a traveler and the rape of his wife. Tajomaru (Tishiro Mifune) is a bandit and has been arrested and is on trial for both offenses. He confesses to the crimes and via flashback he recounts the incident that happened just 3 days prior. It looks very cut and dry, but when others recall the event to the court, including the ravaged widow and the murder victim himself (who speaks through a medium), the stories are significantly different.
It’s these differences that reveal how tragic humanity can be when ego and honor are involved. Adding further confusion to what exactly is the truth, we get a fourth interpretation of the event, this time from an outside observer; A woodcutter who stumbled upon the incident while in progress. But even though his interpretation of events appears likely to be the most accurate, Kurosawa makes us doubt the veracity of his version as well. This is the brilliance of the film. It is left up to the viewer to decide where the real truth lies.
I know many of you might not be fans of “older” films because you can’t relate to the sensibilities or simply because the film is in black & white. If you truly care about film, it’s important to watch films like RASHOMAN to understand how modern storytelling developed. I honestly think you will be pleasantly surprised how many modern techniques, including shooting styles and editing, that Kurosawa employed even in his early years.
At only 88 minutes, it doesn’t demand too much of your time and it instantly sucks you in. Do yourself a favor and watch it. There’s a reason why it’s a classic and revered by so many as a defining motion picture.