Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rashomon - Movie

Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon' was one of the films I had been planning to watch for a while. I finally got a chance to do it yesterday. Once again, Sagar lent me the DVD and I sat own in the quiet of the night to watch this intriguing crime film that led to many thoughts and discussions on what the symbolisms mean, with even comparisons made of an allegory to the bomb and the World War II. The film is based on two different stories by Japanese writer - 'Rashomon' and 'In the grove'. Rashomon is apparently the name of the Southern gate of the city of Kyoto, where unclaimed bodies were sometimes dumped.

The film opens to show Rashomon, the gate, under pouring rain. The camera lingers on the rain for a long while and then to the two people sitting under the gate - a woodcutter and a monk. The woodcutter is repeatedly saying 'I don't understand' while the monk watches in concern. It is then that another man joins them under the gate. He tears down part of the crumbling wooden gate and starts a fire as the other two recount to him, in the hope that he may provide a new perspective, a horrible story that does not make sense to them.

The woodcutter tells the story of how three days ago he went to the woods to cut wood and saw the body of a dead samurai with a sword in its chest. He tells the police that he found the corpse, a woman's veil and some cut rope. Another person comes forward after that, someone who has captured the famous bandit Tajomaru, who was found beside a lake, arrows in his back and a white horse by his side. Tajomaru then tells the court his story of what happened.

Tajomaru sees a samurai leading a woman on a horse and falls for the woman's beauty. He cheats the samurai by telling him that he found a collection of swords and mirrors and the samurai could have them cheap. He ties up the samurai, and rapes the woman, who he says, yielded to him after some stiff resistance with an expensive dagger that she has. After the rape she agrees to go with the bandit but only if he kills her husband. Tajomaru frees the samurai and there ensues a deadly fight after which Tajomaru kills the samurai. The woman runs away and Tajomaru leaves the samurai and the dagger.

The woman is also caught and she testifies that Tajumaro had raped her and left her. She frees her husband who now loathes her. She cannot come to terms with it and faints and when she wakes, the husband is dead with a dagger in his chest.

The husband is contacted through a medium and he says that after the rape, Tajumaro asks the woman to accompany him. She says that she will if Tajumaro kills her husband, something that shocks him. Tajumaro instead, asks the samurai what he should do with her - kill her or set her free. The woman flees and Tajomaru cannot capture her. He returns and sets the samurai free, who then says he killed himself with the wife's dagger. After sometime the samurai says someone took the dagger away.

The woodcutter now says agitatedly that they all said lies. He saw the entire episode, the rape and the murder but did not disclose it to the court because he did not want to get involved. Tajumaor raped the woman and asked her to go with him. But she suggested that the two men fight over her. The samurai does not want to fight over a spoilt woman. The woman says that both of them are not real men because they cannot fight for her. At which, the men fight, scared for their lives, not wanting to get hurt and no wanting to die. As they scramble around trying to save themselves more than attack each other, Tajomaru, by some luck, kills the samurai with a sword. The woman runs away and Tajomaru leaves crawling.

As these four perspectives of the truth are put forward, the three men hear a baby crying. They find a baby on the other side of the gate with a kimono and an amulet. When the thrd person tries to take the kimono and the amulet, the woodcutter admonishes him. The man then laughs and says that it was the woodcutter who stole the expensive dagger of the lady and he, as a bandit, cannot call the other a bandit. The monk now understands that everyone - the woodcutter, the bandit, the woman and the samurai - were acting out of their own self-interest and loses faith in humanity. It is then that the woodcutter takes the baby and says he will raise it along with his six other children despite his obvious poverty. The monk is happy and his faith in humanity is restored.

Rashomon grips you all through because you want to know what really happened. It is finally left to you to figure out. One thing I did not figure out was the connection between Tajomaru and the arrows and the horse at the lake. However the questions that Kurosawa raises through the movie are interesting, as are some of the lines that the characters say.  A deeply, thought provoking movie that stays with you.


Rajendra said...

The name Rashomon itself is intriguing. After reading some Murakami and watching Red Beard, my respect for the Japanese artists has gone up. They are subtle yet deep.

Harimohan said...

Yes Raja, there is much written about this movie (on the net) which was made in 1950, not long after the World War. Many meanings were searched for, symbolisms analysed. I have not seen any movie like this that shows different perspectives and how clouded they get and how motivated they can get. The Murakamis and Kurosawas have certainly elevated the Japanese in my mind as well.