Rashomon (1950) – An Unusual Japanese Drama

We really know well who Akira Kurosawa is. The one who has the most inspiration and influence of films industrial from all kinds of directors. Make him as a role model. “Rashomon” received a critical response by many people because the story was so different from other movies. This movie receiving many awards including Oscar nominations in the Best Art Direction by Takashi Matsuyama and H. Motsumoto in 1953. “Rashomon” became one of the movies raised the name of the director himself. It becomes one that destroyed the film industry. Introduced a term called a Rashomon effect. Directors such as Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, and Christopher Nolan took inspiration from this film. For movie-lovers, especially cult-classics, “Rashomon” became one of the influents with a new innovation at the time.

The plot is so simple: “heinous crime and its aftermath recalled from differing points of view”. There is nothing special and it’s normal for films today. For example, what if “Rashomon” just appeared for now? Would it considered as the most influential films like what we consider now? Nowadays, it’s ridiculous to watch this film far from a few years long. Akira’s own country didn’t consider Akira Kurosawa as an artist. His movies mostly deviate from Japanese culture while his name always worshiped by the film industry and Hollywood. Through this film, Akira Kurosawa became the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1951.

It was based on two stories by Ryûnosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”. Kurosawa didn’t take much in the form of material and frames. He takes every perspective later we would face a philosophical question and answer. Who is righteous and who is a liar. Here, you are the “police” where the audience is the perspective. The actor is directly facing the audience’s on-screen. This is life and death. It’s a “guilty or not” situation. A bandit just killed the husband of the wife he raped.

The first opening scene we got is the shot of Kyoto’s Rashomon Gate. Rainy weather, as always as Kurosawa always shows the weather as its symbolism. It seems like a priest and woodcutter sits with such a confusing feeling. Then, came the commoner who was also so curious about what they had witnessed and why they were confused. Now, these characters don’t know each other. While waiting for the rain, they retell the stories from various views. Such as Tajômaru as the bandit, Takehiro as the samurai, and Masako as the wife. The views included in these characters vary from their own version. From this, we participate as well as guessing and concluding the answers from themselves. But, that’s not what you want to expect.

“Rashomon” gives a very important flashback. It’s not about the scene just showing up. You’ve to be able to see the various clues themselves even in small details. It’s up to you to say what and you also don’t wanna believe it directly how their minds are going. We got the bandit but who wants to trust a bandit? However, he is also not necessarily wrong. We got the woman, but is there a guarantee that we can trust her? Using a subjective feeling to fool someone’s mindset? We got the samurai but who wants to trust a dead man being in a medium? These characters seem to be trying to convince us and witnesses in this movie. By defending and coupling themselves with logic as if we were restrained by our fear, condolences, and egoistic. It really defends ourselves but in fact, they all betrayed themselves.

Tajômaru was more about telling his own story with a feeling of pride in doing it, honored for what he just did, dealing with a one-on-one between samurai. Masako tells her own story using shame and tears as her pain been littered with a criminal and her own self with a cold gaze while Takehiro is more telling his own story with a feeling of humiliation, lose to a bandit and further discredit the bandit himself. Finally, we got the woodcutter as the most biased eyewitness and most afraid of the truth which is real but he is the same as the three characters who use the gap. In the end, this is not who is the right or the wrong one, but who can you believe if there is nothing else to trust?

The way of Akira Kurosawa takes every of the shot as well as when I first watched “Seven Samurai” where he used the weather and fixed cameras more often become his own trademark. The rain at the beginning of the scene really tells us a sense of confusion in so deeply felt by the two characters which seem confusing and has been amazed by such a full-of-twist story.

In the end, the movie ends with redemption and humanity appear on the woodcutter’s character along with the rain that gradually stops and the sun appears as if it’s a symbol that there is still a kindness that arises in humans. It’s a philosophy about what the true means of a human being is. The rest of the backgrounds used in this film are just three: the Rashomon gate, the scene when the perpetrators and victims retell their stories, and the forest. Various kinds of memorable scenes in this film are like the choreography from one on one between Tajômaru and Takehiro, a medium segment, and various kinds of out of character from the actors and actresses.

Toshirô Mifune is Akira Kurosawa’s favorite actor. When his character as one of the most memorable yet respected characters in “Seven Samurai,” we got Toshirô Mifune as a bandit who felt scared, tried to convince us, and the police. There is a small scene when he ran down on a hill in the forest without any fear prevented him. He ran as if no one could block him the same as in “Seven Samurai” which you can look closely and a close-up from his expression there is no fear of it.

Fumio Hayasaka’s score is great and the comical one, makes each scene compelling in a few moments and sometimes, some little segment of being silence is really needed for certain scenes. The actors and actresses also performed perfectly especially Machiko Kyô and Masayuki Mori along with with Toshirô Mifune because those who dominated the most in this movie. They did various changes of characters from various points of view wherein the end, they were the major focus.

“Rashomon” seems like a courtroom drama movie but it’s not about finding the truth. You’re stuck on a Kurosawa’s philosophy about human beings, who can be trusted and if there is nothing to be trusted, is this world a hell? It’s a movie that puts a lot of influences, for now, a story which feels new and original at the time and becomes a new innovation. With truly beautiful and brilliantly shot visuals, the greatest acting performance, the visual, and the score, “Rashomon” deserves to be called art along with the best film ever. In fact, it’s difficult to parallel with the today films where creative seems to be gone. “Rashomon” is a film yet more than a film.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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