Akira Kurosawa – Rashomon

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Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Produced by: Minoru Jingo

Screenplay by:  Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto Based on «In a Grove» by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki

Music by: Fumio Hayasaka

Cinematography: Kazuo Miyagawa

Edited by: Akira Kurosawa

Production Company: Daiei Film

Distributed by Daiei Film

Release date: August 25, 1950

Rashomon (Rashōmon) is a 1950 Japanese period film directed by Akira Kurosawa, working in close collaboration with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. It stars Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, and Takashi Shimura. While the film borrows the title and setting from Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s short story «Rashōmon», it is actually based on Akutagawa’s short story «In a Grove», which provides the characters and plot.

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The film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident. Rashomon marked the entrance of Japanese film onto the world stage; it won several awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1951, and an Academy Honorary Award at the 24th Academy Awards in 1952, and is now considered one of the greatest films ever made.

The film opens on a woodcutter (Kikori, played by Takashi Shimura) and a priest (Tabi Hōshi, Minoru Chiaki) sitting beneath the Rajōmon city gate to stay dry in a downpour. A commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) joins them and they tell him that they have witnessed a disturbing story, which they then begin recounting to him. The woodcutter claims he found the body of a murdered samurai three days earlier while looking for wood in the forest; upon discovering the body, he says, he fled in a panic to notify the authorities. The priest says that he saw the samurai with his wife traveling the same day the murder happened. Both men are then summoned to testify in court, where they meet the captured bandit Tajōmaru, who claims to have set the samurai free after encountering him in the forest.

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The film depicts the rape of a woman and the murder of her samurai husband through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the bandit/rapist, the wife, the dead man (speaking through a medium), and lastly the woodcutter, the one witness that seems the most objective and least biased.

The stories are mutually contradictory and even the final version can be seen as motivated by factors of ego and face. The actors kept approaching Kurosawa wanting to know the truth, and he claimed the point of the film was to be an exploration of multiple realities rather than an exposition of a particular truth.

Later film and TV uses of the «Rashomon effect» focus on revealing «the truth» in a now conventional technique that presents the final version of a story as the truth, an approach that only matches Kurosawa’s film on the surface.

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Due to its emphasis on the subjectivity of truth and the uncertainty of factual accuracy, Rashomon has been read by some as an allegory of the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II. James F. Davidson’s article «Memory of Defeat in Japan: A Reappraisal of Rashomon» in the December 1954 issue of the Antioch Review is an early analysis of the World War II defeat elements. Another allegorical interpretation of the film is mentioned briefly in a 1995 article «Japan: An Ambivalent Nation, an Ambivalent Cinema» by David M. Desser.

Here, the film is seen as an allegory of the atomic bomb and Japanese defeat. It also briefly mentions James Goodwin’s view on the influence of post-war events on the film. However, «In a Grove» (the short story by Akutagawa that the film is based on) was published already in 1922, so any postwar allegory would have been the result of Kurosawa’s editing rather than the story about the conflicting accounts.

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Symbolism runs rampant throughout the film and much has been written on the subject. Bucking tradition, Miyagawa directly filmed the sun through the leaves of the trees, as if to show the light of truth becoming obscured.

The film appeared at the 1951 Venice Film Festival at the behest of an Italian language teacher, Giuliana Stramigioli, who had recommended it to Italian film promotion agency Unitalia Film seeking a Japanese film to screen at the festival. However, Daiei Motion Picture Company (a producer of popular features at the time) and the Japanese government had disagreed with the choice of Kurosawa’s work on the grounds that it was «not [representative enough] of the Japanese movie industry» and felt that a work of Yasujirō Ozu would have been more illustrative of excellence in Japanese cinema. Despite these reservations, the film was screened at the festival and won both the Italian Critics Award and the Golden Lion award – introducing western audiences, including western directors, more noticeably to both Kurosawa’s films and techniques, such as shooting directly into the sun and using mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the actor’s faces.

The film was released in the United States on December 26, 1951, by RKO Radio Pictures in both subtitled and dubbed versions, and it won an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for being «the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1951» (the current Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film wasn’t introduced until 1956). The following year, when it was eligible for consideration in other Academy Award categories, it was nominated for Best Art Direction for a Black-and-White Film. Rashomon was also one of the films which inspired the 1954 Indian-Tamil language film Andha Naal.


Rashomon wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon


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Η υποκειμενικότητα του ανθρώπου

Τρύφων Λιότας Στον ΤΟΙΧΟ

Η ταινία Rashômon (Ρασόμον, 1950, Japan) ήταν η πρώτη διεθνής επιτυχία του διάσημου σκηνοθέτη Akira Kurosawa η οποία έκανε γνωστό στη δύση τόσο τον σκηνοθέτη της όσο και τον ιαπωνικό κινηματογράφο. Οι τεχνικές που χρησιμοποιήθηκαν ήταν πρωτόγνωρες για την εποχή τους ενώ μέχρι σήμερα διδάσκονται στις σχολές κινηματογράφου και αντιγράφονται χωρίς όμως ποτέ να μπορέσουν να φτάσουν την τελειότητα του μεγάλου αυτού σκηνοθέτη.

Πρόκειται για μια απλή ιστορία βασισμένη σε ένα διήγημα του Ryûnosuke Akutagawa του 1922 με τίτλο «Σ’ ένα άλσος». Κατά τη διάρκεια μιας καταιγίδας ένας ξυλοκόπος, ένας βουδιστής μοναχός και ένας αστός αναζητούν καταφύγιο σε ένα εγκαταλελειμμένο σπίτι. Εκεί ο αστός θα ζητήσει να μάθει λεπτομέρειες σχετικά με τη δολοφονία ενός σαμουράι και τον πιθανό βιασμό της γυναίκας του. Η υπόθεση είχε μόλις εκδικαστεί και οι δύο συνομιλητές του ήταν μάρτυρες στη δίκη: ο μοναχός γιατί είχε συναντήσει το ζευγάρι πριν το αποτρόπαιο έγκλημα και ο ξυλοκόπος γιατί ήταν αυτός που είχε ανακαλύψει το πτώμα. Κατά τη διάρκεια της δίκης ακούμε τέσσερις μαρτυρίες για το ίδιο γεγονός που όμως είναι αντιφατικές.

Πρώτα καταθέτει ένας ληστής, βασικός ύποπτος για τη δολοφονία αφού πιάστηκε να έχει στην κατοχή του το άλογο και τα όπλα του σαμουράι. Στη συνέχεια καταθέτει η γυναίκα του θύματος και η ίδια υποτιθέμενο θύμα βιασμού. Ακολουθεί η κατάθεση του ίδιου του νεκρού (!) με τη βοήθεια ενός μέντιουμ. Και οι τρεις ιστορίες όμως σύμφωνα με το ξυλοκόπο είναι ψέματα. Αυτός γνωρίζει την αλήθεια γιατί ήταν αυτόπτης μάρτυρας. Δεν θέλησε όμως να καταθέσει γιατί δεν ήθελε να ανακατευτεί.

Όλες οι ιστορίες έχουν αδυναμίες και είναι ψέματα. Υπό το πρίσμα των νέων στοιχείων που έρχονται στο φως μέσω των καταθέσεων βλέπουμε το μοναχό να χάνει σιγά – σιγά την πίστη του στην καλοσύνη του ανθρώπου, τον ξυλοκόπο να αποκαλύπτεται ως κοινός κλέφτης, ενώ τα κυνικά σχόλια του αστού απλά ενισχύουν την άποψη ότι ο άνθρωπος είναι το χειρότερο ζώο. Ο τίτλος της ιστορίας (Σ’ ένα άλσος) έχει γίνει ιδιωματισμός στα Ιαπωνικά και χρησιμοποιείται για να δηλώσει μια κατάσταση όπου δεν μπορεί να βγει κάποιο συμπέρασμα επειδή τα στοιχεία δεν είναι αρκετά ή είναι αντιφατικά.

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Ο τίτλος της ταινίας (Ρασόμον) έγινε και αυτός έκφραση: «Φαινόμενο Ρασόμον» και χρησιμοποιείται όταν για το ίδιο γεγονός δίνονται αντιφατικές ερμηνείες από τους διαφορετικούς συμμετέχοντες. Ο όρος γενικά απευθύνεται στα κίνητρα, μηχανισμούς και περιστατικά της αναφοράς στο γεγονός και πιο γενικά στην υποκειμενικότητα της ανθρώπινης αντίληψης, μνήμης και αναφοράς. Συμβαίνει δε κυρίως σε περιπτώσεις πολύπλοκες και ασαφείς λόγω της απουσίας αποδείξεων για να ανυψώσει ή να αμαυρώσει κάθε εκδοχή της αλήθειας, και ιδιαιτέρως όταν υπάρχει κοινωνική πίεση για αποτελέσματα και απαντήσεις πάνω σε ένα ερώτημα. Ο όρος έχει χρησιμοποιηθεί και καθιερωθεί στην ανθρωπολογία, στη λογοτεχνία, στη ψυχολογία και στην εθνογραφία.

Κάθε νέα κατάθεση ταυτόχρονα ξεκαθαρίζει αλλά και θολώνει αυτά που ο θεατής γνωρίζει για το φόνο, δημιουργώντας τελικά μια πολύπλοκη και αντιφατική εικόνα των γεγονότων που στην ουσία αποτελεί μομφή στην ικανότητα ή στη θέληση του ανθρώπου να μεταδώσει την αντικειμενική αλήθεια. Ο λόγος είναι απλός: ο καθένας από τους μάρτυρες έχει να κρύψει κάτι. Όλοι μας ψευδόμαστε βάζοντας την αιτία πάντα με το μέρος μας και αυτός είναι ο λόγος που τον περισσότερο καιρό δεν είμαστε ειλικρινείς ούτε με τον ίδιο μας τον εαυτό.

Είναι η υποκειμενικότητα μας που φταίει ή μήπως η ζωώδης φύση μας; Υπάρχει λύση σε αυτήν την τραγωδία ώστε να επανακτήσουμε την εμπιστοσύνη μας στον άνθρωπο; Η μήπως και αυτή η ίδια εμπιστοσύνη είναι ένα όμορφο ψέμα που λέμε στον εαυτό μας όπως ο μοναχός της ταινίας;

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Ο σκηνοθέτης δεν δίνει καμιά απάντηση. Αφήνει τα πάντα στην κρίση μας. Από την αρχή μας ορίζει ως κριτές της ιστορίας που τελικά όμως δεν μπορούν να κρίνουν λόγω των αντιφατικών καταθέσεων. Επομένως μας εξαναγκάζει, κατά κάποιον τρόπο, να εκφράσουμε την δική μας υποκειμενικότητα σε σχέση με την ταινία.

Ίσως η καλύτερη ταινία του Kurosawa, ο οποίος έχοντας βαθιά γνώση του ανθρώπου και του κινηματογράφου, χρησιμοποίησε πολλά τρικ για να μπορέσει να κάνει ενδιαφέρουσα την ταινία, αλλά και να πει πράγματα τα οποία δεν λέγονται εύκολα με διαλόγους. Λέγεται ότι πριν τα γυρίσματα είχε πάει με τους βασικούς ηθοποιούς σε μια ταινία ζούγκλας για να μπορέσει να τους εξηγήσει πως θα παίξουν σωστά το ρόλο τους, επιδιώκοντας έτσι να τονίσει τη ζωώδη φύση του ανθρώπου.

Όταν διαβάζουμε ένα βιβλίο το μυαλό μας φτιάχνει ελεύθερα τις εικόνες, όμως σε μια ταινία αυτή η ελευθερία χάνεται. Η ιδιοφυΐα του Kurosawa ήταν ότι κατάφερε να χρησιμοποιήσει την κάμερα για να μας ξεγελάσει: νομίζουμε πάντα ότι ό,τι βλέπουμε είναι αληθινό. Με μακρινά πλάνα αλλά και πλάνα που δεν δείχνει καταφέρνει να κάνει πρώτα πιστευτές τις καταθέσεις των μαρτύρων και μετά να τις γκρεμίσει. Στην ουσία επιτρέπει σε συνδυασμό με τις εκπληκτικές ερμηνείες των ηθοποιών να υφάνει τον ιστό των ψεμάτων τους. Ο θεατής τοποθετείται πίσω από την κάμερα σαν ο ίδιος να είναι ο ανακριτής που κάνει τις ερωτήσεις ενώ η αντιφατικότητα των καταθέσεων αναγκάζει τον θεατή να αντιδρά στις πληροφορίες αλλά πάντα σύμφωνα με την προσωπικότητά του. Αυτός είναι και ο λόγος που κάθε θεατής έχει διαφορετική άποψη για τα γεγονότα. Αυτή η αινιγματική, χωρίς λύση του μυστηρίου ταινία συνεχίζει να συναρπάζει και να θαυμάζεται παρά το πέρασμα του χρόνου γιατί απλά αποτελεί ύψιστη μορφή τέχνης.


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Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

Rashomon was the film that introduced the films of Akira Kurosawa to Western audiences, and along with The Seven Samurai (1954), is considered to be his masterpiece. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 1950 Venice Film Festival, it is often amongst the most praised and influential films in cinema history. The film opens with a woodcutter and a priest sitting beneath a gate, revealed to be called Rashomon, waiting out a heavy downpour. The priest sits in silence contemplating, while the woodcutter, clearly troubled, repeats to himself «I just don’t understand». Soon they are approached by a drenched commoner who joins them beneath the gate and queries the woodcutter as to what is wrong. Both men tell him that they have just been witness to the most disturbing story of their lives, which they begin to recount to the visitor. The story revolves around the rape of a young woman and the murder of her samurai husband.

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The woodcutter, who had found the body three days prior when he was walking through the forest, had fled to notify the authorities, and the priest, who had seen the couple the morning of the incident, are called in to give their testimony. It is at the trial that they discover Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune), a notorious bandit who had been captured after falling weak due to a stomach ache, who claims responsibility for the rape and murder. Through the recount of the woodcutter to the commoner, we are revealed to three separate stories about the incident; first by the bandit, then the girl, and finally the deceased samurai through a medium. Each is a decisively different account of the events, troubling the woodcutter. The difference in the accounts throws doubt on what really happened and questions us as an audience to consider that there may be in fact no truth at all.

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Tajomaru’s story recalls that he desired the woman after glimpsing her briefly when she and her husband rode by. Deciding he wished to love her, even at the expense of her husbands life, he lures her husband away promising that he had some valuable weapons to offer him. He ties him up in a grove, and after some initial violent retaliation with her dagger, the woman is eventually seduced by the bandit. She begs Tajomaru to duel her husband to the death to save her the shame of having two men know her dishonor. Tajomaru recounts an epic duel between the two men, which results in him being victorious. When he is asked about the whereabouts of her dagger, he deems himself foolish for having forgotten about it. The woman’s story reveals that Tajomaru had left immediately after raping her, and that she had received no forgiveness from her husband for her betrayal, firstly begging him to kill her, and then finally fainting out of shame. She awoke to find her husband killed with her dagger, and then subsequently failed in her own attempts to kill herself, leaving the dagger behind. In the samurai’s story, he claims that Tajomaru, after raping his wife, asked her to accompany him in his future travels. Having agreed, she asks the bandit to kill her husband to free her guilt of belonging to two men. He is initially shocked and then gives the samurai the option of killing the woman or letting her go with him. The woman flees, Tajomaru releases the bonds on the samurai, who ultimately kills himself with his own dagger.

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Following his recount of the three stories, the woodcutter has a surprising reveal of his own. He tells his friends that he had actually witnessed the incident, but was scared of revealing his knowledge at the trial. He reveals that the samurai’s story was a lie, and that the men had indeed fought one another, but not to the heroic scale of Tajomaru’s recount. Tajomaru had raped the woman and asked her to marry him. She had freed her husband and asked the men to duel for her love. With both men reluctant and fearful, they duel, with Tajomari clumsily winning and then limping from the scene. With the woodcutter having declared that all of the previous accounts were false, we feel we have finally discovered the truth through an eye-witness testimony. Following this discussion, the silence is interrupted by the sound of an abandoned and crying baby. The commoner steals a kimono and an amulet left with the baby, which prompts the woodcutter to chastise him. But the commoner, who had also deduced that the woodcutters story was false, claims that he had stolen the dagger from the scene. With the priest’s faith in humanity rocked by all the lies, he is suspicious of allowing the woodcutter to take the baby into his care. But once the man reveals that he has six of his own children and that all of his actions (stealing the dagger and choosing to withhold his story at the trial) were to provide for and protect his family, the priest hands over the baby. The film concludes with the woodcutter leaving Rashomon with the child under a now sun-drenched sky.

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The film questions the objectivity of truth and knowledge, and it raises an interesting philosophical debate about our faith in humanity. Throughout the woodcutter’s recount of the stories, the commoner cynically comments about the nature of humanity. He declares that «it’s human to lie» and that «most of the time we can’t be honest with ourselves». Content to hear out the story because he wishes to remain dry, he assures the men that he «doesn’t care if it is a lie, as long as it is entertaining.» While the film is certainly dense and philosophical, it is also supremely entertaining. It is beautifully shot, with features of the environment and often direct sunlight masking all that we are revealed to. The sequence where the woodcutter first walks through the forest is mesmerizing. Utilizing multiple cameras, with the footage meticulously edited together, it is swiftly paced and consistently engaging, with each account captured in it’s own unique way. The scenes at the trial are all similarly framed; from straight on, with the cast looking beyond the lens and speaking to a jury positioned slightly to the right of the camera. It’s brilliantly dialogued, especially in the sequences beneath the Rashomon gate. The priest, woodcutter and commoner share some great chemistry and their conversing is often amusing. The performances are all outstanding. Toshiro Mifune, a regular in Kurosawa’s films, is at his obnoxious best here. Endowed with a villainous chuckle, he is really convincing as a conniving bandit, smitten with the beauty of the woman. Machiko Kyo is outstanding, with a performance that ranges from a pleading and pathetic betrayer, to a frightfully irritating serial-sobber, to a conniving ice-queen.

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Often, misguided memory and presence of the «waking dream» challenge the reliability of a subjective reality. Films in which the memory plays a significant role, both as subject matter and as a strategy for telling the story, such as in Kurosawa’s Rashomon, are problematic to the possibility of the narrative, particularly the relationship between events in time and the accurate account of these events. Within the plot of Rashomon, four different versions of the same event are considered. With the exception of the use of the medium to narrate the words of the dead samurai, there isn’t any discrepancy in the mental states of the characters or their memory; the truth is hidden through the act of a lie. The expression of the flashback is simple and straightforward, first capturing pieces of their account from the trial and then confirming this with a visual representation. In a debate about the action-image we can distinguish that Rashomon does not resort to confusing the action-image, but a simple event is purposely retold differently in the characters’ testimony. The action does not occur outside of the conscious level of the characters, and their realization of the truth is not subject to any such lapse in time. The mental state of a character is at issue when the viewer discovers that a flashback is false, and as an audience we witness something that never occurred. This observed and confirmed by the commoner, who like the audience, is hearing these different accounts for the first time and concludes that all the accounts were false. The characters are motivated not by memory, but by a desire to ‘cover’ the truth. A more contemporary example of this kind of film in Bryan Singer’s, The Usual Suspects (1995). Since it’s conception, Rashomon has remained revolutionary in the development of multiple narrative, and multiple point-of-view cinema. While The Seven Samurai is still my favorite Kurosawa film, Rashomon is a brilliant piece of cinema that really tackles human nature in quite some depth for a story that is so concise and simple. It really is rewarding cinema.


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Rashomon: No 5 best crime film of all time (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

Ryan Gilbey The Guardian Sunday 17 October 2010

A woman is raped in a forest by a bandit, and her samurai husband murdered. In court, the victim and her attacker give contradictory accounts of what happened, while the dead man, communicating through a medium, offers another differing interpretation. Finally, a fourth account is given by a woodcutter who claims to have witnessed the attack. But whose version can be believed? Rashomon, which won the Grand Prix at Venice as well as the Oscar for best foreign language film, is an example not only of the great Kurosawa at the height of his powers – working with his regular collaborator, the imposing Toshiro Mifune – but of cinematic storytelling at its most daring. With its multiple contradictory flashbacks conspiring to present truth as an amorphous entity, Rashomon has been hugely influential on film structure and vocabulary in the 60 years since it was made.

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But this formalist significance should not overshadow the picture’s visual eloquence, and the extraordinary cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa, which uses the intricate woodland setting as a metaphor for the story’s tangled emotions. «[The] strange impulses of the human heart would be expressed through the use of an elaborately fashioned play of light and shadow», wrote Kurosawa of his preparations for the film, which he adapted in part from the short story, Yabu no Naka (In a Grove), by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. «In the film, people going astray in the thicket of their hearts would wander into a wider wilderness…» The bristling beauty of the film emerged from Kurosawa’s quest to reconnect with the roots of the art form, which he worried were in danger of being eclipsed. «Since the advent of the talkies in the 30s,» he said, «I felt we had misplaced and forgotten what was so wonderful about the old silent movies. I was aware of the aesthetic loss as a constant irritation. I sensed a need to go back to the origins of the motion picture to find this peculiar beauty again…» There may be something a shade too reassuring about the final deference to truth and idealism. But this is easily offset by the rigorous psychological work-out to which Rashomon – arguably Kurosawa’s greatest work – subjects its audience.



Rashomon Trailer (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)



Rashomon (1950) Akira Kurosawa – Full movie w/ subtitles (HD)



Rashomon 1950 – Akira Kurosawa – español






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