Movie Analysis

Discussion of Storytelling and Truth in Rashomon



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Kurosawa's (1950) Rashomon is a movie which shows how any individual's perception and telling of an event can differ from another's version. It also shows what lengths people will go to protect their own self image from lies and deceit to murder. By the end of the movie, it is still unclear which of four stories told is true. This puts some doubt on the justice system which has been based on peoples' truths which are to be self-evident.

The story was told by a bystander and three participants. The filmmakers used flashbacks as the way the individuals told their stories. Their own emotions tend to change the accuracy of each tale of rape and murder and the resulting effects relating to some old Japanese culture. For instance, when the woman is raped, she is no longer desired by her husband and she has to choose between him and her rapist.

Three of the characters had, at the beginning of the movie, sought shelter during a torrential rainstorm. The shelter was a temple ruins called Rashomon. A priest and a woodcutter recount their story of a rape and murder to a vagabond. The woman who was attacked was a beautiful woman of nobility, accompanied by her noble husband.

A thief had followed them and lured the husband away, then tied him up and went back to get the woman and lure her to where her husband was. Her husband was forced to watch as the thief raped her. Her husband, depending on whose story is to be believed, was either murdered or had killed himself.

Flashbacks from the thief who was accused of the crimes and the noble-woman's story were also different. The noblewoman was quite emotional in telling her side of the story and is believable as a victim and denies wanting her husband killed.

The thief seemed to take wild delight in his telling of the story. He appeared to be enjoying his 15 minutes of fame and quite likely was embellishing his accounting of what had happened. He admits to raping the woman and murdering her husband. He also tells of falling in love with the woman and begging her to leave her husband and marry him.

Even the dead husband testifies in the trial through a woman who is a medium. His version accounts a terrible fight with the thief after the rape has occurred. The thief runas away and the husband commits suicide because of the shame from his wife being raped and her choosing to be with the rapist and demanding the rapist kill her husband.

The three men in the rainstorm didn't seem to know who to believe even though some parts of all their stories match. The vagabond scoffed at the others' recollection of the scandalous story and left.

When a baby was found abandoned at the ruins, the woodcutter offered to take the baby home with him because he had so many children, it didn't matter if he had another. When he did that, the priest believed the woodcutter's story, because of the goodness from his heart he showed by offering to take the baby.

Perspective is relative. Each person can see the same event, but perceive the details of the event differently. This would make it very hard in a trial to know, based solely on eyewitness accounts, just what is the truth. This would be the reason that the development of finding and using physical evidence and DNA is so crucial. Such evidence can be used to support or disprove witness statements.

Maybe when sworn in at trial, a witness should add "As I perceived it" when they swear to . . . tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (as "I" perceived it), so help me, God.

More about this author: Lisa A. Goff

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