Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writer: Akira Kurosawa; Shinobu Hasegawa (script); Ryunosuke Akutagawa (novel)
Cast: Toshiro Mifune; Machiko Kyo; Masayuki Mori; Takashi Shimura; Minoru Chiaki
Duration: 88 minutes
Today we are going to talk about and review another Akira Kurosawa movie, this time it’s the 1950 movie Rashomon. A movie that wasn’t precisely well-received by Japanese critics but which was loved by international critics when it was brought to the 1951 Venice Film Festival on which it won a golden Lion. It would go on to receive an honorary academy award in 1952 and it is to this day regarded as one of the greatest films ever made
The plot is as follows: “In 12th century Japan, a samurai and his wife are attacked by the notorious bandit Tajomaru, and the samurai ends up dead. Tajomaru is captured shortly afterward and is put on trial, but his story and the wife’s are so completely different that a psychic is brought in to allow the murdered man to give his own testimony. He tells yet another completely different story. Finally, a woodcutter who found the body reveals that he saw the whole thing, and his version is again completely different from the others.”
So how good is the movie that prompted different responses from movie critics in and outside Japan and has ended up being considered one of the best movies ever made?
My opinion: The premise of this film is very interesting. The fact that four people have four different stories about the murder and the audience can’t really be sure over which one to believe. The four accounts you are told are not told from the perspective of four characters all of whom may have reasons to lie or not tell the whole truth, not even the one that should at first be the “objective observer” whose story would logically be the truth
Throughout the movie you are told by a character who is hearing all this for the first time. Everyone lies when it suits their interest, everyone is selfish. Leaving you with the doubt of which account is the truth if any of those accounts is the actual truth at all. And the movie does little to give you a clear answer, or at least it doesn’t tell you directly, you have to decide which one to believe even if I think that indirectly the movie gives you the answer but that’s also a personal opinion.
The fact that it does this combined with the fact that you may get a different answer every time you watch it and that of all of the guesses you make can actually be the truth makes this movie unique. The ending of the movie it’s also really interesting in it’s own and while it may seem a little unrelated at first I think it ends up giving you either some pieces to complete the puzzle or can be a rather interesting and uplifting ending, again I think that’s open to interpretation.
Finishing with what I think about the story, what I love the most is how it challenges the viewer to find his own answer to this case.
Now the characters, like I’ve said in my previous two reviews the acting is really good the characters are really well portrayed by the actors. The characters who appear in the story themselves are interesting, you get to know them from different perspectives and their personalities of the characters in the story change from account of the story to account of the story. Like I said the actors who portray them do a really good changing sometimes subtly sometimes not so much their characters. The Bandit Tajomaru is probably my favorite of these characters, he shows a crazy side, a charming side, an apologetic side and even for a moment a serious side thanks to Mifune’s great portrayal.
However I’d say the characters I like the most are not the ones involved in the murder story, because the woodcutter, the monk and the peasant are really good in this movie too. The monk and the peasant with their different views on humanity, and the peasant taunting the monk and trying to convince him that everyone lies with the monk refusing to believe that everyone lies or that everyone is selfish, the resolution of this discussion is good too.
But my favorite character is the woodcutter, the man who “discovers the body” who in reality has seen it all but has not told the authorities. He claims that the other stories about happened are false, and it’s clearly feeling guilty about something, not telling the “truth” and the reason why he hasn’t told it. It’s clear that in the end he is a good man and that hiding the truth is weights heavily on his conscience. And even when you discover the reason why he might have lied when he tells his version you can’t help but sympathize with him as you learn of his circumstances. This is in no small part due to Takashi Shimura who does a hell of a job portraying him and showing us all this, through his dialogue his expression etc.
Finally as every Kurosawa movie I’ve seen so far the movie is shot really well, I especially like how the scenes at the courthouse are shot with the characters speaking directly to the audience, there is no judge because in this movie it’s the audience the one who has to try to find out the what they think is the truth of what happened, who, if anyone, is telling the truth.
Although the sceneries are more limited than in other Kurosawa movies they are still fine and the half-destroyed Rashomon gate, where the woodcutter and the priest tell the story of what they’ve seemed at court that morning and the woodcutter’s story to the peasant, certainly is impressive. The music is good too and I liked it although I liked it and how it was used more in other Kurosawa movies.
So having said all this is Rashomon a Five Stars out of Five movie? Yes it is. It most definitely is. Now one of you asked me when I reviewed Ran if it was on par with this movie. I’d say that yeah, it’s definitely on par with Ran, although both movies are different,and both movies can be considered masterpieces so yeah I’d consider them to be on par. As for which one I personally liked more I’d have to go with this one because like I said I consider it more unique
Now the next review we’ll be moving away from Samurai movies for a bit because I’ll be reviewing the Akira Kurosawa film Ikiru, after which I’ll review a couple of asian movies not from Japan, or if Japanese from a different director, and an anime I’ve been meaning to review. Ikiru will not be my last Kurosawa movie review I’ll just be taking a break.
Now I leave you with the trailer for this movie uploaded to YouTube by janusfilms