remains of a half-torn ticket

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rashomon (1950)

Movie: Rashomon
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Language: Japanese
Duration : 88 minutes
Tagline: Who is the culprit .. the husband , the wife or the bandit?
IMDB Rank : 71

The film that introduced Kurosawa and Japanese cinema to rest of the world. As most of the cult directors have done bringing in films much before the time Rashomon also was before time, it gained attention in Japan only after it got rave reviews in western world . Rashomon was made by a reluctant Japanese studio and studio head even got his name removed from the credits. It won the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars, it broke the box office record for a subtitled film in USA. Rashomon had first in everything, nobody has seen anything like that before. In fact I would say we have not many films of 3 self confessed killers and no final decision at all.

There is a woman who is raped and her husband killed. There are 4 viewpoints being told in a flashback by 4 eye witnesses : women, a bandit, husband ( telling through a medium) and a wood cutter. All the stories are mutually contradictory and its upto the viewer to determine who is the killer. Which story is true and what actually happened on that day ?? Its all upto the viewer.

Film opens with a heavy raining scene with two men sitting under a shelter. As I read at various places and two I have seen, Kurosawa has a knack of using the weather elements in his movies heavy rain in Rashomon, fighting scene in Seven Samurai , the intense heat in Stray Dog, the cold wind in Yojimbo, the snow in Ikiru, and the fog in Throne of Blood. These are all distinctive Akira's style.

Finding the killer is not the main goal, but its is to understand and ponder over the inability of humans to be truthful. It also focuses on relative subjectivity/objectivity of truth.

It prompts you to think on the below two questions :

Things appear to be true only at some times and not at others.
Things appear to be true only for some people but not for others.

Same story is shown 4 times from different view points and every time you feel more gripped to the movie and there is no single moment of dullness. In moments the camera angle will change forcing the users to reconsider again the version the story which they believed. And we believe every story what is being told because we are actually seeing it happen, and we all have learned believing that eyes never tell lie, but in reality we should also suspect what we have seen.

Each of the actor is superb Bandit is captivating and his laugh will unsettle you many times. Husband is shown as a weak character but its the wife who is the soul of the movie, in one story she is shown as submissive as a helpless victim in one she is seductress. I like the scene when the bandit ask her to come with him and she says she cant decide and tore the rope of husband indicating that two men need to decide. I will not delve more into the stories as it will take away the suspense, one watch is not enough for this awesome movie. I will have to watch is many times to fully understand the correlation between human and truth.

Rashomon is also famous for its awesome cinematography. Shadow of leaves and sunlight coming in between takes you really into the forest. Sequence of wood cutter walking through the forest is taken from various angles of camera. At times camera is on the face, at times upwards in the sky at times on the trees at times on the shadow. All these with soothing music make the normal walking in the forest engaging.

Viewer may not realize just after watching that he has watched a great movie. But after hours you will realize it is a masterpiece and you need to watch it again. Its a film to respect and admire then to enjoy. It will be one of the rewarding 88 minutes to cinema you have watched. If 50's was golden period of Indian Cinema I think it also holds true for Japanese Cinema also.
Movie to watch before you die !!!