Rashômon (1950)




















Three men gather under a half destroyed building as a storm brings down thousands of gallons of rain. Two of these men had already been sitting for some time, the newcomer arrives and is perplexed by the duo's morose nature. They moan and wail and say that they can't believe it. One of them even says that he may finally lose hope in the human soul. What are they talking about?
The man prods and pries until finally the two men give in and start telling a story—a story that involves murder, rape, manipulation, and lies.
One of the men, a woodcutter, was walking in the woods when he stumbled across a crime scene. He ran back to get the police. The day of the storm, the day the men all sit inside and talk, is the day that they all had appear in court and give their accounts. The woodcutter simply found a dead man, killed by a sword. He cannot give much testimony. All he knows is that there was a couple traveling through the woods and something happened to them.
The other man, a younger man, says that he saw this couple a few days earlier.
Then a captured bandit tells his story—he fully admits to killing the husband and raping the wife. This man is unhinged, laughing manically as he tells his tale.
After the bandit's story is told, the third man taking shelter from the storm remains unimpressed. Men kill men and rape women daily, why should this crime be such a horrendous act?
But wait...there's more.
After killing the husband, the bandit claims that the woman disappeared. Police found her hiding in a temple and she too will give her account of what happened that day.
Her story differs.
"Rashômon" plays out with changing perspectives and total lies interweaving until it's not certain what it truth and what is fiction.
This is a common tool applied in film. Charlie Kaufman would use perspective like no one before him and the ultimate brain teasers like "The Sixth Sense" and "The Usual Suspects" always prove that there's more going on that meets the eye. Yet, the modern day movie, in respects to shifting perspectives, only builds up to a final reveal. Nothing more is needed from the film.
In a movie such as "Rashômon", this is not the intent. There is no last minute shocker, in fact it's never really certain what happened. To what purpose? "Rashômon" is making a statement about humanity.
It's trying to enlighten the viewer.
Is it successful? Perhaps not as much as it would like to be.
The film looks fantastic and comes from acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa. I have not been a Kurosawa fan, and still am not. Though I have yet to see a lot of his works, I find the films that I have seen overly long and filled with hyper-emotions.
There is a masterpiece somewhere in the midst of "Rashômon"; but it does get lost.
Some scenes are chilling, like a medium summoning the spirit of the husband back from the dead. The wind blows in and the woman writhes on the floor, relieving the final moments of death.
It's a film that is classic and I can understand why. It is certainly way ahead of its time and very exciting.
Yet, in the end, I think the film is too happy. Everything lines up with man being an evil creature until the final shot. It goes out on a high note, but it shouldn't have.







Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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