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Introduction

Rashomon is a period drama movie filmed in the 1950’s. Akira Kurosawa directed the film, and he collaborated with Kazuo Miyagawa as a Cinematographer. The film is based on two short stories in which felony is observed through four characters described in four equally conflicting ways. The film’s subject matter is the complexity, or to be specific – the impossibility, of getting  an accurate picture of an event from witnesses, whose accounts conflict..

There are several parts of the film Rashomon that show the ideas and actions of all human beings that are influenced by the culture. When the event of the murder of the Japanese nobleman and the rape of his wife is told, we find different points of view from the four witnesses who narrate their story.

The film uses subjectivity, perception and recollection of ideas which enhance the production of a sustainable, but equally plausible account of each event. To understand the film, the viewer should analyze it in an interpretive and positive manner so as to inform oneself of each event shown in the film.

Subjectivity

The film Rashomon has subjective parts as the individual characters witness a common event, but form their own stories. These subject matters normally appear fundamentally contrary because they give different perceptions about the meaning of truth and the objectiveness of reality in events. This leads to employment of social science, which analyses the truth about events in different fields. The characters give accounts of a single event that had occurred, but each has different narratives that contain a different plot. The plot does not connect to the central event that connects the four segments. When the film starts, each character tells his own version of the events to a magistrate who is conducting an investigation on a samurai’s death. In the film, one would note that the woodcutter’s version of the story affects both the priest and the crude commoner. Furthermore, the commoner can be said to be either unaffected or inspired since he opts to commit a miserable crime at the end of the film. The film employs subjectivity, which refers to the condition of a subject. It can also be referred to as the subject’s experience, perspective, feelings, desires and beliefs. Subjectivity relates to the social life of an individual; in other words it is the process of individuation. The rape of the woman in the film shows that women are discriminated and are seen as weak beings. The female character is portrayed as submissive, weak, deceiving and cunning among other vices. This is seen when the woodcutter goes in the forest and recounts how he found the body. Additionally, it is shown in the priest’s story whereby he tells how the woman was raped in front of her husband. This shows how the actions and ideas of all human beings are influenced by the culture. The perception men have about women is that they are weak, and that is the reason she was raped after the man was murdered. Additionally, there was no man who could have given her security.

The viewer of the film experiences all the phenomena in the film and produces his own subjectivity. There is confusion about the villain throughout the whole film; therefore the viewer’s subjectivity undergoes constant changes through the film. The viewer undergoes a wide range of emotions, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and sensations. Therefore, this generates a constant transformation on the subject of the film in relation to the real world. ( Akutagawa, 2007).)

Truth and Perception in Rashomon

In the film, one notes the relationship between the truth and the characters’ perception of the main event, which is the samurai’s death. The film presents four different versions of an event that had occurred in the forest, and the four characters perceive it differently. The versions are so different that the viewer cannot merely formulate the truth from one version. It can be argued that the characters have multiple truths because the characters are dishonest. The dishonesty comes about since the humans are not speaking absolute truth so as to protect themselves. They are biased and do not provide information that would affect them negatively. Furthermore, the multiple versions of stories narrated by different characters make a new truth of the story. It can also be argued that the different versions have only one truth. The characters hide their deficiencies, and exclude the single truth for personal reasons such as to protect themselves from the awful consequences. The witnesses lie to protect themselves: in the real world, people tell lies so that they can protect themselves, and this is influenced by cultural practices. In the film, the woodcutter confesses that the woman is lying.

It can be argued that the four characters mention different perspectives on who killed the samurai, and each person’s story reflects how he or she views the world. The four characters distort the story so that they would not be looked at as criminals by others, but the version of the woodcutter is believable compared to the other versions. From the story, we all know that he has knowledge of all the testimonies from others. However, the woodcutter’s story about the event might be a lie since he excludes some information: he does not mention the dagger in his testimony. This is revealed when the commoner narrates the events in his testimony. It can be deducted that characters’ perspectives depend on their view about the world and the way they want to see it.
Additionally, people modify statements with the intention of hiding the truth, for example, the wife tells a lie about the dagger she used. She tells the police about her lost dagger and explains that she dropped the dagger in the forest. She tells a lie since she is ashamed of herself and prefers to be considered as a dumb woman rather than a criminal suspect. (Landa, Y. (2002)

Recollection

The film is a recollection of different versions of the same event. The characters  - the  Woodcutterwoodcutter, the bandit, and the wife, narrate different versions of the story about the death of the samurai. Gathering all these versions of the story creates a new truth; this is because all the events have a common fact, which is the death of the samurai. In the version of the bandit, he claims to have raped and killed the man, but he had no intention of doing so. On the other hand, the wife says that the bandit raped her and insisted that she killed her husband using her dagger. It is true that the two versions are different, but they share a common thing, which is the death of a man. The multiple versions of the truth from each event help the viewer create a new truth. (Chriss, 2007)

Rashomon Effect

The film uses the Rashomon effect, whereby different characters in the film narrate about a phenomenon, but in different ways. The observer is familiar with these phenomena, but may be confronted with one’s perception of reality. The viewer is forced to recount the event and use different lenses to understand the characters’ views about reality. Understanding these lenses creates a perception and provides a clear idea of the real event.

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