Rashomon (1950)


Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon presents the elements of treachery, secrets and lies, and hidden truths in a perfect yet incomplete visual context. It is one of the first films of its time that boldly dared to present the subjective nature of truth using the medium of cinema, with unreliable narrators and a mise en scene that may or may not have happened, which contain details that overlap and cancel each other out, jarring the viewer’s experience in the process. What you see is not what you get.

Kurosawa’s Rashomon is based on a short story, “In A Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, which presents several inconsistent testimonies about a single event; in the story, the drama is heightened because the event is that of a brutal murder.

In his adaptation from text to film, Kurosawa deftly chose specific key elements in the story, and then found visual means of involving the audience. Here, we see a perfect early example of how the moving image has transcended the written word. He has done the work much justice because he demonstrated a “true” sense of the story’s elements. With the details that he left out and added to make the story his own, he was careful not to disregard the main point of “seeming” that permeates the entire story, and successfully employed a myriad of innovative visual techniques to repeatedly draw attention to the premise of the story. Kurosawa is a true master class auteur of film theory and practice. Also in this film, there is a long shot where he boldly points the camera directly into the blinding sun. Spectacular. This is one of the most important movies in the history of cinema that you will ever see, and I am happy that this film belongs to public domain streaming, as it should be.


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