Rashomon – Three men and some truth

rashomon.jpg
[Pic: sprout.org]

The moment anything is reported or written, truth suffers. This is one of the most fundamental points in reporting news. The eye witness narrative is the most sought out at such times. At all possibility, the eye witness brings his perspective of the news. The moment a perspective is brought in, subjectivity creeps in. He selects which part of the news has to be told, which part of the news he remembers, which part he forgets and which part he compels himself to hide. Thus selection of the scene from eye witness becomes inevitable. Finally, the truth suffers. So what happens when truth suffers?

I copy pasted the above paragraph from my Virumandi movie review without any changed. And that suits Akira Kurosawa‘s Rashomon. Rather it’s the other way. But blame it on me watching Rashomon only now. Rashomon can be celebrated as one of the best all-time movies. I would personally say it’s the most simplest movie ever taken. With the story, screenplay, camera, sets, costumes and all being so simple, the movie was terrific. It was a quaintly gripping. Rashomon is certainly a tour-de-france in it’s own way. For a B &W movie, it had elements of international cinema which could be referenced and debated even now.

Rashmon, a place of workship which was once a building of faith is in shambles. Three men discuss on a extra-ordinary event which two of them witnessed. Eachone has a version of the story. Where the heck is truth. It’s said that the story of Rashomon was built from a shortstory called, In the Grove by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. But it was Kurosawa’s dealing with it made it a evergreen classic. Even in such a negative thread that runs throughout the movie it’s Kurosawa’s brilliance that made all them seem positive at the end. The last scene where the wood cutter walks with
the newborn talks volumes about the gist of the movie. The woodcutter with his heads raised, walks away from Rashomon, carrying the kid in his hand and the sun shining behind him. Metaphorically, the promise for a better future lies only with such altruistic random acts of people, at times of emergency. Class act !!.

I am not sure if the building Rashomon was an erected set or not but it was completely realistic and the rain was perfect. It brought in the required tension without any 360 degree panned jimmy-jip angles. The chasing scenes had some amazing shots with the camera rushing down a bushy slope. Something I got to see for the first time only in Mani Ratnam‘s Pagal Nilavu song. Akira Kurosawa must have been an expert even before he shot Rashomon to have such clarity in the scene sequencing techniques. The protagonist Toshirô Mifune as Tajomoru just walked with best actor award.

For those who haven’t seen, watch it without expectations. You can be positive that you will be rewarded in the end.

18 thoughts on “Rashomon – Three men and some truth

  1. The rashomon gate set was indeed a real set, built at Toho Studios. To get the desired effect of heavy rain(kurosawa likes extremes- very cold, very hot and godawful pouring rain) they brought in every fire engine that was available for the studio (a fire broke out on a nearby set and was quickly put out before resuming filming). Kurosawa did not like how the rain looked on film, so he had his crews mix black ink into the rainwater to get the desired effect on film.
    What was produced is possibly the best kind of rain ever captured on film, as well as some of the best forest scenes on film.

  2. There are many things that can be admired in a film like Rashomon. It was the first time the sun was ever photographed. Kurosawa used the makeup man’s studio mirror to reflect the sun and photograph the image on the mirror. Also when mifune explains his part of the story, he would be sleeping under the shade of a tree when the travellers would be going by. Kurosawa wanted to photograph Mifune with the shadow of the leaves falling on his face. The trees in the region were too tall and the shadows werent crisp at all. So they constructed a metal cage just at the corner of the frame and had some leaves put on top of the cage to get sharp shadows. So many such trivia can be said of Rashomon. There are a few films that have influenced movie makers for decades. Rashomon is probably the tallest of them.. pure, simple and very philosophical.

    Watch other Kurosawa’s movies like:

    1. Seven Samurai
    2. Yojimbo
    3. High and Low
    4. Sanjuro
    5. Raphsody in August

  3. Very good review. Just couldn’t help wondering about this line – ‘Rashomon is certainly a tour-de-france in it’s own way’. Did you mean tour-de-force or as mentioned?
    Thank you.

  4. Very good review. Just couldn’t help wondering about this line – ‘Rashomon is certainly a tour-de-france in it’s own way’. Did you mean tour-de-force or as mentioned?
    Thank you.

  5. Lz, Wait till you meet the “AMWAY” expert.

    My American friend Travis in Minneapolis told this to me about 8 years ago.

    When Travis was 14 years old , he goes to his dad excited about something and asks says to his Dad! “I have a business proposal from a guy in the mall”, “he says it would pay for my school, college and much more, please! can I join them?”

    Dad: “Son, yes if it anything other Amway, you are welcome to go.”

    Travis: Duh it was Amway.Why?

    Dad: If want to stay away from bad things in your life, first thing that comes to my mind is Amway, Son please stay away.

  6. Anangbhai, Thanks for that trivia on Rashomon. As said it waqs the best rain captured on a film. It had an amazing effect in the screenplay.

    Hemanth, Thanks to you too for that trivia. Every one who has seen Rashomon seems to go back and get all the trivia. I understand thats the impact of gthe film. Also I adding the film to my list of to-see. I recently say Ikiru of Kurosawa and i felt this was an extra-ordinary dude.

    Ammani, Actually you are right. It should be tour-de-force. Given my recent reading of Lance Armstrong’s battle against cancer and his come back on tour-de-france, I messed up. But doesn’t it give the same meaning even now.

  7. In my opinion, this movie was ok. There were no layers. It was a very simple movie with overacting. Maybe it was a trendsetter at that time. If you watch it now, it is a very normal movie. I somehow think that many of us just suck up, pretend to like what others think or say is good, just to fit in.

  8. In my opinion, this movie was ok. There were no layers. It was a very simple movie with overacting. Maybe it was a trendsetter at that time. If you watch it now, it is a very normal movie. I somehow think that many of us just suck up, pretend to like what others think or say is good, just to fit in.

    Rajs, Couldn’t disagree with you more. On the first line when you said it was your opinion was cool. But then when you genralised your comment that the MANY of us(most of whom you would be strangers) suck, since they pretended the movie was good, you lost the battle there. BTW, the cliched question is here for you to answer before we even start talking more about Rashomon. Can you define acting. Let’s talk about Over-acting then.

  9. I have to agree with rajs somewhat. Not on Rashomon, but on some other films. Funny thing is most Indians come here to US mostly exposed to the action blockbusters/comedies of Hollywood. Note: I said most, not all. And then after they are in US and have seen some local sitcoms/movies for a while and are a bit more “americanized” in taste and can understand dialogue in movies better, they look up some top 100 list by Roger Ebert or IMDB or AFI and start praising every one of those movies and calling them as “clasics” and son. A lot of these movies, in my opinion, would mean more to someone who has lived most of his life here in US or simply an American. They are the targetted audiences of these movies in most cases. Imagine an American trying to develop a taste for Tamil movies and trying to see movies like Mudhal mariyaadhai or Devar Magan or Virumandi. Thats the situation most Indians are in. Yet they seem to be a little pretentious with their reviews as if they had seen everything Hollywood has to offer and have the ability to proclaim a movie as a classic just because they liked or they compelled themselves into liking it as it figured in the top 100 list 🙂 Typical human(or desi) psychology.

    I laugh hard when I read such reviews for some of those cold, distant, documentary-like Stanley Kubrick films which demands the utmost patience from the viewer to sit though them.

  10. Vijay, Hmmm. you are in a mood to stir things up. Welcome. If for someone a stanley kubrick film seems to you like a documentary, Rashomon would be like Film Division. Since those of them can’t sit through a movie can never criticize others for being pretentious.

    I do agree that there are pretence in those respective circles. For example in the theatre circle, some of them are really involved in movies/theatres. A few others want to just hang around with them and keep name dropping during conversations. That’s so common in this dog-eat-dog world. You can’t be critical of them. Survival is a need of the day. So cool-off and watch a jackie chan movie 😉

  11. I fully agree with Vijay.

    For me, cinema has two types of contents. Technical and Emotional.

    As a cinema viewer, I attach more importance for emotional content – particularly because I am a novice when it comes to the technical aspects.

    And it is very difficult (not impossible) to fully appreciate emotional content across cultures. So, when people claim to have done that, and re-iterate a classic as a classic, makes me very skeptical.

  12. Swamy, true. Yet another thing where I get skeptical is the whole symbolism thing and how it adds value to a movie. Many time, these desi ppl read the movie reviews, know the intended symbolism in advance and then pretend to like it and praise it after watching the film. Left on their own, I would be surprised if they would have got the symbolism in the first place. Also,How much of symbolism is needed and how much does it add to the viewer’s movie-watching experience, is in itself debatable. I have known some poeple attributing vague symbolisms to certain characters and scenes in films. Whether the director himself intended it or not is another issue 🙂 Once again its just our tendency, when we watch movies of critically acclaimed directors we search for symbolisms and try to over-analyze the movie.

    Lazy, I am cool, just pointing out afew things I have observed amongst the desi audience here in US and also amongst a few back home who watch English movies regularly.

  13. Rajs, Couldn’t disagree with you more. On the first line when you said it was your opinion was cool. But then when you genralised your comment that the MANY of us(most of whom you would be strangers) suck, since they pretended the movie was good, you lost the battle there. BTW, the cliched question is here for you to answer before we even start talking more about Rashomon. Can you define acting. Let’s talk about Over-acting then

    Hey Lazy,

    I got the idea about people here by reading the blogs. I am a frequent reader to most. But lets agree that most are all in their late 20s and 30s and most of them are engineers. Just look at the arguement about Kamal, Rajini, Mani, etc. Its cool to be like that. But my point is, who knows about acting or over-acting? Have you taken a course? Many say Sivaji overacted in many movies in the 80s. Its alright to agree or disagree. But to pretend that you know more than you are is not cool. Other’s who read the blog may agree with you just to fit in the group. Thats all.

    Chill!

  14. Forget punctuation, at first ‘glance’ I got 13 grammatical mistakes. Not being nitpicky just doing my bit to make you a better writer. Honest introspection will tell you that I am not being unjustly critical too..Somebody’s got to bell the cat, you see.

  15. Kombat, Thanks and it’s true. Look at it not as belling the cat. Look at it as taking time to write me a mail. That’s why not many do that. Otherwise, many are aware of spell mistakes and grammatical mistakes that get sneaked into my posts.

    Well, I make sure they don’t happen. Not everytime. Also too much of editing spoils the blog’s life. Then a blog becomes a newspaper. Ofcourse I’m also not comfortable in reading a passage with grammar and spell mistakes. Thanks for putting it so polietly. Will take additional care from the next time. Bear with me.

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