In the 1950’s Japanese crime, mystery, and drama film, “Rashomon”, directed by Akira Kurosawa, provides not only a number of intuitions into the human mind, but while doing so, is also able to question the nature of truth itself. The story unfolds in different and unexpected ways that gives one interesting arguments on the nature of truth, human weaknesses and trust. Akira Kurosawa’s tells the story of a murder.
It flashes back to the murder four times and the story of the murder is told by a different character each time, while three of them tell their reasonable though completely incompatible versions of the story. By the usage of music, specific camera shots, and the scenery this film not only makes one think about truth, but most importantly if humans can survive without it. Akira Kurosawa’s first flashback within a flashback was the woodcutter who claimed to the authorities that he founded the dead body in the middle of the woods.
He first begins by telling his version of the story to a commoner; as this flashback takes place many suspicions are being made. As the flashback begins it starts with a shot of the sun moving west through the cracks of branches and leaves above, then back to him walking through a knot of trees and bushes. The scenery is gray, dark, and gloomy; the melody while he walks is being played repeatedly by drums, oboes, and pungi. Just by these first analyses made in the woodcutters’ first flashback one can tell that he might be lying.
There are four shots being shown of leaves and branches moving against clear skies in different directions and between each of those four shots it shows him walking through the woods in circles. The meaning of these shots and the repetitiveness of the melody might indicate that the woodcutter was lying about how he had found the dead body; he was trying to figure out a way of making the story sound reasonable by using the “It was a beautiful sunny day and I was walking through the woods to chop some wood” type of story line. ” The woodcutter was basically just lost in his own lie.
Furthermore, the woodcutter coming upon each of the objects while taking his “everyday stroll” made it even more believable to the authorities because it seemed as if he was “a regular woodcutter taking his usual path The woman’s version of the story was quite different from the woodcutters, obviously because she was the “victim”. The way she is portrayed in her own flashback is innocent, abused, and not cared/loved by her husband anymore. After the bandit took advantage of her and she tries to run towards her husband, she looks like a bright white dove trying to run to her savior.
However, once the bandit pushes her to the ground the scenery turns dark and he rushes out through the dark woods. When the woman and samurai are alone, the woman just cries her eyes out as a sign to the authorities that she has been hurt and did not do anything to deserve this. Furthermore, when the woman is face to face with her husband, she looks at him; her eyes start to get wider and she starts to back away slowly as if he was a monster. His face is shown as serious, shadows hit his face, and he is still.
That is when the woman backs away even faster and slowly covers her face with her hands. Kurosawa’s purpose here was probably to picture her as if she was trying to hide behind a mask because she knows she was lying, but did not want to tell the authorities what really happened. When she goes back up to her husband, after she ran to get a dagger, they look at each other once more and she insists for him to kill her, yet he just stands there. Once that occurs the scenery turns dark and her face becomes hit by shadows and fright.
She begins to wobble around in front of her husband with a dagger pointing at him; this shot is probably to be shown as if her husband was a mirror, so basically she is looking at her reflection, which in this case is her husband who in her story is delineated as a monster and finally gets rid of “it” by killing him. After the woodcutter admits to the priest and the commoner that he had witnessed the crime, no one had any trust in him anymore. Just as all seems dreary and hopeless, a baby appears behind the gate.
The woodcutter redeems himself and humanity in the eyes of the troubled priest, by adopting the infant. The infant is a sign of hope and a new beginning and once he adopted the infant the rain, the confusion, the dark and gloomy scenery all vanished. Each person can see the same event, but perceive the details of the event differently. As stated by the commoner, “Who’s honest nowadays? Everyone wants to forget nasty things so they invent different stories, it’s easier” (Rashomon). In this case the woodcutter knew the truth but did not tell the authorities because he was scared they would have blamed him as a uspect and he did not want to get involved. On the other hand the woman actually told the authorities that she had stabbed him. Nonetheless, she lied because she did not want them to know that a pure, noble woman surrendered to the love of a bandit and would stay with whoever won a duel between them. Today in a trial it would be very difficult to know, based solely on eyewitness accounts, just what is the truth. Akira Kurosawa’s way of portraying these flashbacks to each character created the viewers to believe their lies.
However, the scenery, the shots taken, and the music of each individual give an idea as to who is lying; such as, the woodcutter who’s lie were portrayed when he walked through the forest for a long time before getting to his point, and the woman who cried to make them believe she was innocent of her own actions. It is difficult to forget the truth, but easier to cover it. Everyone should always tell the truth; even though, if you are a suspect. Without honesty people that are supposed to be punished for their crimes aren’t; they are just let free to wonder off and commit some other felonies.
Courtney from Study Moose
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