A review of the classic Japanese film “Rashomon”

Set in Japan in the deeply troubled 8th century, this black and white film tells a story which proves to be anything other than black and white: how a samurai and his wife are set upon by a bandit, who rapes the wife and murders the husband, all while being observing by a passing woodcutter. What makes the work a classic is that this basic narrative is recounted four times: first by the outlaw, then by the wife, next – through a medium – by the dead nobleman, and finally by the lowly woodcutter who may be the only independent voice but could be as unreliable a narrator as all the others.

Based on two short stories, the legendary Akira Kurosawa co-wrote and directed this classic and classically enigmatic work which is acted in somewhat exaggerated, mannered style and shot through dramatic cinematography alternating between rain and forest. It raises profound questions about the nature and importance or otherwise of truth but manages to conclude on an optimistic note.


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