Rashômon (1950)

Your favourite song is probably your favourite because you associate it with an emotional event in your life.

Maybe that’s what could be said for movies too, though I mean on a much larger scale. Take, for example the so called ‘classics’ like Citizen Kane, All Quiet on the Western Front, and so on. These movies are repeatedly mentioned in lists of some of greatest movies of all time. In my opinion, if these movies would have been released today, they would be considered very ordinary, even in high definition and with better graphics. That brings me to Rashômon.

pnQ3rOLgL_840w_v1Set at time where the film-making industry was still growing, Rashômon is said to have brought the Japanese to the international movie-making scene. See, that’s what I’m exactly talking about. This movie has history, and this historical significance instantly elevates its status. Rashômon was highly praised for its unique storyline and its completely new way of presentation. Another example would be of ‘Bullet Time’ from the first Matrix movie, which was soon followed by countless different iterations in movies, advertisements and what not? The thing that I’m trying to tell is that, Rashômon could be (actually it was) a very big deal at the time, and for that time only. Very few movies have such a big impact on the industry. Just research Rashômon Effect, and you’ll get an idea.

Story

Of course the main highlight of the movie had to be the story. No one ever tried story telling the way Akira Kurosawa did in Rashômon. A tale of rape and murder, retold through varied vantage points of six different individuals, each of which was markedly different from all others. It was only in the end, that the real version of the ‘truth’ was finally revealed.

Even though the overall plot was not ‘extraordinary’, the unique presentation style makes this movie a real joy to watch. The second biggest strength of this film was the epic ensemble of very rich and varied characters. Each and every one was interesting and had an equally big role in the movie. This is one of those few movies where you would find such a great overall chemistry between all the characters. This is an example of some great writing here.

Sadly, such a wonderful cast of characters wasn’t equally well complemented by acting.

Acting

The final opinion is just as what you would expect for any typical movie of the time. Not good.

Overacting was a common trait of every movie that was released of the by-gone era. But I again remind you that it was completely acceptable at that time as the focus of that time was different. Nowadays, we strive for gritty realism in almost every form of entertainment- even in cartoons! But then things were different. Movies like these were more like a play or a drama than a realistic (or exaggerated) version of the original story. Nevertheless, acting felt a bit poor if you compare it by today’s standards. (It would be simply dishonest of me to pretend to like the acting performance. I belong to the 21st century, and now we don’t watch movies like these.)

Toshirô Mifune, the so called lead actor who plays the role of the fierce bandit Tajômaru was my least favourite of them because of his grossly overacted scenes. His maniac-like laughter was the biggest turn-off and that kept happening all the time. Machiko Kyô even didn’t forget to follow suit and stands just after Toshirô  with her excessive whining and fake laughter.

Even then, acting was nothing too bad and with such a well laid out plot, the movie didn’t lose quality.

Cinematography

The film employs a very efficient use of lighting and shadows. The utterly artistic manner in which the shadows dance on the faces of the characters gives the story a whole new dimension. This reminded me of another great movie, V for Vendetta, where the lead character was only a mask and the way they used the shadows to give his face his personality- genius!
Similarly in Rashômon, the rich patterns created by the jungle helped create a very wonderful setting for the movie. The movie always felt like it was in a perpetual state of motion because even when the characters were just standing or sitting, the forest felt completely alive as the shadows danced in the backdrop.

Superb camera work. Here Toshirô Mifune on the left, playing the bandit is seen taunting the the noble husband played by Masayuki Mori, on the right.
Superb camera work.
Here Toshirô Mifune on the left, playing the bandit is seen taunting the the noble husband played by Masayuki Mori, on the right.

And for a black and white movie belonging to the fifties, this movie looked pretty good as well. Good contrasts, very minimal artefacts, everything. The camera work here was very well done here and deserves every bit of praise it got then and now.

Music

The background was typically Japanese and complemented the movie just fine. I won’t consider it anything extraordinary but it was nothing that broke anything. Again, I was not a big fan of most of the music scores of the time as well.


In the end, the review turned out more of a how a 21st century teenager feels about a 20th century film. This review also turned out to be a bit different that the rest, but I hope I didn’t bore you so much.

Rashômon is an interesting watch and something that cannot be missed by any movie lover. I bet none of you heard about the Rashômon Effect before (myself included). Very few movies have such a big impact in the industry and Rashômon can easily be considered as a trendsetter in a crowded and tough industry.

Also, as we know that a movie is best viewed when watched in its native language and form, but due to by limitations, I had to rely solely on the English subtitles. The reason why the movie could be getting a lower rating than it should have.
3.5/5
3.5/5
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