I was referred to watch “Rashomon” while I was reading a book that mentioned this film as one of the most influencing films in history, more because of its plot and technique. From its title, of course you will know that “Rashomon” came from Japan. This 1950 film was made by Akira Kurosawa, the director that also brought you “Seven Samurai”. As I recalled, I guess “Rashomon” could be the third or the fourth black-and-white film I have ever watched.
Adapted from two short stories written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the story of “Rashomon” was told in a flashback when a woodcutter (portrayed by Takashi Shimura), a priest (portrayed by Minoru Chiaki), and a commoner (portrayed by Kichijiro Ueda) gathered in a ruined gatehouse named Rashomon. The woodcutter and the priest were just summoned to testify to the local court about a peculiar case of rape of a woman and murder of her husband. Then, the woodcutter started to recount the court as he started to retell the case through the very differing points of view of the three other witnesses: the raped woman (portrayed by Machiko Kyo), the rapist named Tajomaru (portrayed by Toshiro Mifune), and the soul of the murdered husband (portrayed by Masayuki Mori) called using a medium (portrayed by Noriko Honma).
"A man has to make a woman his by his sword" - the woman
Akira Kurosawa used a different style of storytelling in “Rashomon”, which at that time was considered as a breakthrough of filming. Today, maybe we can parallelize this style to similar films like “The Usual Suspect”, “Vantage Point”, and any other films that tell the same story from different points of view of the characters. The crime scene will take place over and over again, according to every perspective of the witnesses. This elliptical plot, somehow, went quite intriguing in “Rashomon” because that one single rape and murder scene was told so differently from every witness. Then, we will be taken to predict which one of these witnesses was telling the truth (or maybe none of them was telling the truth). It’s a little bit similar to a whodunit style, but after you finish watching “Rashomon”, you’ll be presented a wholly different conclusion of this strange case.
Well, “Rashomon” was made in 1950. Its black-and-white coloring will amaze us that this nonstandard, non-conventional plot style had been adapted 62 years ago. Look at the make up, the costume, and the set; they were so traditionally, genuinely, and innocently made. For the record, “Rashomon” opened a gate to the West cinema industry to introduce the Japanese films to a wider acclaim. It is beautiful and notable with its eccentric cinematography, and it resembles an ambiguity as the main topic. I cited Wikipedia that “Rashomon” was the first film that was “...shooting directly into the sun and using mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the actor's faces...” as it influences Western filmmakers to adopt this technique.
Although some parts were quite (or too) weird, but you must have known that appreciating this film cannot be done using modern films as parameters. “Rashomon” not only is a monumental and historical work but also implies today’s entertainment. Best regard to Akira Kurosawa for presenting a brightly different and brand new style that influence modern cinema. With a moral and philosophical content lies beneath the plot, “Rashomon” is acclaimed, worth to watch, and artistically classic.
▲ Monumental, artsy, a breakthrough at its time
▼ Some may consider it too awkward
RASHOMON | COUNTRY Japan YEAR 1950 RATING Unrated GENRE Crime, Drama RUNTIME 88 min CAST Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Kichijiro Ueda WRITER Ryunosuke Akutagawa (stories "Rashomon" & "In A Grove"), Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto (screenplay) DIRECTOR Akira Kurosawa IMDB RATING 8.4/10 (Top #90) METACRITIC n.a. ROTTEN TOMATOES 100% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO