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Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa

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Midori Sanchez
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Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa

I watched “Rashomon” by Akira Kurosawa. It apparently was based on “In a Grove”, which is a short Japanese frame story. It involves the truth, the power of words, spirituality, honor, and gender stereotypes and expectations of its time.


The movie begins in the 8th century on Kyoto during the Heian period. Rashomon was the larger of two massive Gates built in Japan, the other being in Nara. The opening scene begins with ruins of what seems to be the scene of a great battle, and it’s pouring rain. The two characters in the beginning are dressed in clothes in tatters. One of the men is a priest, and two seem to be possibly commoners. They allude to a disturbing event that occurred that they flashback to retell from different perspectives.

For American audiences between having subtitles and the pacing (it took at least ten minutes to find out the unbelievable story was that the men mentioned at the beginning), it may be difficult to watch. I personally enjoyed the music, the landscape, and the use of non verbal communication in story telling such as the man picking up a piece of what looks like armor and becoming more and more alarmed as he continues watching; to me this adds to the drama and suspense building to what he does eventually see.

I can also see why this movie was popular with American audiences with seeing “exoticized” Japanese life rather than the everyday such as Ozu would portray. This also shows the realities of combat in war being so personal such as with the use of bow and arrows and swords. It also showed the hyper masculine side of men with aggressive dialogue style as well as going to violent lengths to prey on the beautiful but initially feisty woman; there is also talk of honor and dueling. From the perspective of the robber, she is not exactly a damsel in distress, but her lack of dialogue, mutual attraction, begging, and crying make her viewed as an object. When she is actually interviewed, it is evident that his advances are not consensual and that she is driven to protect herself and her honor when her husband is tied up, but still describes herself as a “poor, helpless woman”.

It is interesting to note that one of the men describes the woman’s account as untrustworthy because they “use their tears to fool everyone, even themselves”. Her husband also views the wife as unfaithful and disposable, and his story seems to match that of the robber. On the other hand the hyper feminity of the female character and our current climate of the #metoo movement makes an American-21st-century viewer aware of the “Wild West” of a patriarchal society in Japan.

I recommend this movie because it not only shows Japan hundreds of years ago and I greatly enjoy history and seeing costuming and set design to represent this, but it also arose questions within me based on the climate we are in now. We are given information and have to process the information in the way that we can understand, What is "fake news"? What is "truth"? Who is "credible"? Who is "owned" by who? Who is perceived to be more credible: men or women?


In the end, surprisingly enough, the woman ends up calling her husband and the robber out for not being real men and for their pettiness. She is the one who encourages the duel because the two men are actually not “man” enough to initiate putting their lives on the line for the sake of the woman or their own honor.