Rashomon… The Review

Rashomon… The Review

32.jpgName: Jason Von Berg
jB Productions

Documentary response to Rashomon

Rashomon is a film that was made in 1950. On the DVD sleeve it states that the film examines the nature of truth, or as others have states it investigates the philosophy of justice. In the English language the term Rashomon is said to be a by-word for any situation in which the truth of an event is difficult to conclude because of the varying perceptions and views of the witnesses. It is in this film that the by-word is indicative of this in that there are four views accounted for all centering on a rape and a murder. This discussion will aim to explain which in my opinion is the most truthful and valid view.
Firstly it must be stated that it is quite ironic that this film is in black and white. I am aware that it was made in the 1950s, but I do believe that if one is to explore the philosophy of justice and truth this is valid in terms of what and whom to believe. There is no grey area, someone murdered someone or they didn’t, he wasn’t sort of killed. In addition to this there are several themes that need to be explored, in particular that of gender. At the beginning the woman is portrayed as somewhat innocent, virginal and pure. However as the plot is developed her Geisha-looking representation is shattered by the supposed rape, or her willingness to be with the bandit. A generalized view in society is that women are somewhat reliant on men, therefore making them vulnerable. However in the progression of this film there are signs that suggest the roles are reversed. Her husband is in need of her help when he is taken captive by the bandit, and she has the power to help him and depending on whose story the viewer believes the viewer will contribute to his or her decision.
The one obvious aspect to this film is that the Samurai is dead, but the question is how did he die? It is quite interesting to note his account of his death. In his narrative he uses the body of his wife to tell the story, as part of a possession. After the bandit raped his wife, he asked her to travel with him. She accepted but on the basis that the bandit killed her husband, in order to keep her from knowing two men. The bandit then turned the tables again, and threatened to kill her. After trying to recapture the woman, he sets her husband free, who then uses his dagger and ends his own life. Again it is important to note the director’s choice of making the woman the one who is vulnerable and runs away from the scene. One can draw similarities to Adam and Eve, in that Eve tempts Adam to eat the forbidden fruit i.e. using her manipulative powers to obtain what she wants.
For obvious reasons I would suggest that the next account to take note of is that of the Samurai’s wife. Masago claims that after the rape she was left to weep. She wanted her husband to forgive her, saying she was vulnerable and that she had no choice or way of escaping. After setting him free, his cold response forced her to beg him to kill her so that she could be at peace. She as a victim of a violent act found it far too overwhelming and passed out. Her claim afterwards was that she woken up near a river and attempted to drown herself.
Another theme that I would note is that of realism and therefore attention should be placed on the meaning making process. It seems to be a good indication as to what Japanese lifestyles and culture is like. How so one may ask? In terms of how that lady begs the bandit to kill her husband so that she doesn’t know two men, or how she asks her husband to kill her to put her at peace after he refuses to give grant her his forgiveness. But then what does the Japanese population believe, do they think this is a good and true reflection of society, or whether the film reflects a more Western and sensationalized account? It challenges the emotions of the viewer while trying to figure out the most reliable option. As movie critic Dan Jardine suggests, “By the end of the movie, we feel our emotions have been rubbed raw, yet we are no closer to determining the ‘objective’ truth than we were at the start of the film.”
In conclusion I would say that many viewers will, like me, be very confused even more so in the beginning. I would say it is determined by the standpoint one finds him or herself in at that particular moment in time. Therefore I would say that the most reliable narration is that of the bandit. Even though his laughing is a little ominous and quite frankly weird, his story seems to have the most bit of truth as possible.

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