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Rashomon (1950)

Film Review

By Andreea SormPublished 6 months ago 4 min read

"The truth is like a giant puzzle; as we each hold onto our own individual piece, we can only see a small part of the picture and it is only through God's eyes that we can see the entire picture."

This quote is from the film "Rashomon" by Akira Kurosawa, which explores the themes of reality and truth through the lens of a murder investigation that involves conflicting testimonies from multiple witnesses. The film ultimately suggests that truth is deeply subjective and that our perceptions of it are influenced by our personal experiences and biases. This idea is supported by a scientific study conducted in 1935 at the International Congress of Psychological Morphology in Gothenburg, which found that over 80% of people who witnessed a staged crime event provided inaccurate or false testimonies due to fear, panic, and the need for quick reactions. Only 4% of people provided accurate accounts of what happened, revealing the deeply subjective nature of truth. The film "Rashomon" takes place in a tumultuous period of Japanese history and presents multiple perspectives on a murder case, emphasizing the subjective nature of truth and the difficulty of arriving at a definitive version of events.

In an exceptional cinematographic way, Akira Kurosawa tells us in this film about reality and truth (two infinite themes that have generated essential philosophical schools and currents) under the pretext of a crime, which the particularities of each person's perception and memory transform into radically different scenarios. It is only halfway through the film that we begin to understand that Kurosawa's message targets the subjectivity of reality and the nostalgia that arises from the development of the lucid and harsh conclusion that each of us holds only contaminated versions of it.

What is the truth about truth and reality? In 1935 at the International Congress of Psychological Morphology in Gothenburg in a conference hall filled with only scientists (the most important of the moment from all over the world; so only strictly informed people), a panicked clown suddenly burst in, trying to take refuge from an angry African American man dressed in an eccentric checkered jumpsuit. At that time, a carnival was taking place on the city streets, so the incident seemed very plausible. It soon became clear that the oddly dressed Black man was very determined to settle an old matter with the clown, so seeing that he could not reach him, without hesitation, he stopped running, pulled out a pistol, and fired several shots in the direction of his victim.

The police arrived immediately, arrests were made, evidence was collected, and statements were taken from all the participants in the event (the entire audience, again only eminent psychiatrists).

But it had all been staged.

The result of the test was astonishing. Over 80% of the people who made statements falsified the truth in a completely absurd way, making serious mistakes in describing the characters, their attitudes, and the number of shots fired... (most did not remember any Black man, eccentric clothes, a clown whom they confused with a man dressed in white; they indicated wrong directions of action, invented other participating characters, or provided bizarre descriptions). Only 4% of those surveyed made statements consistent with what actually happened (through confrontation, as the experiment was entirely filmed).

The conclusion of the test was that the truth is deeply subjective, and we perceive it differently depending on our education, sensitivity, culture, and state of mind of each of us at a given moment. The audience in the congress hall was so emotional about the incident they were witnessing that fear, surprise, panic, and the need for a quick reaction made objectivity disappear.

Returning to Kurosawa, informed in this way, we take note of the plot. It is located in a turbulent, confused historical period, torn by civil conflicts (Heian dynasty, 9th-12th centuries). Heavy rain gathers under the shelter of Rasho gate (the gate of Kyoto city) three travelers: a woodcutter, a priest, and a commoner. The first two are still marked by a recent event in which they have a direct connection: the assassination of a samurai, most likely by the bandit Tajomaru. The story of the circumstances in which the tragic drama occurs is told in four significantly different testimonies: the bandit's version, that of the samurai's wife who is even the reason for the tragic dispute, that of the woodcutter who seems to have been an eyewitness to the event, and, in a highly effective scene, the testimony of the victim's spirit taken through the medium of a trance.

It could be about adultery, rape, an honorable confrontation, or a robbery... all followed by a murder. The reports differ, but they also resemble each other in their details. The extraordinary quality of the film is that it does not aim to restore the truth, but suggests that three of the versions could be interested (the bandit, the woman, and the samurai). It is the spectator's duty to construct their own version, and the bitter shadow that the realization of the limits of the human condition in the perception of reality is shattered by the end of the film, in which the rain stops, the sun rises, and a child abandoned in a temple is spontaneously adopted by the woodcutter. The act makes the priest exclaim optimistically: "Your gesture has restored my faith in humanity."


About the Creator

Andreea Sorm

Revolutionary spirit. AI contributor. Badass Engineer. Struggling millennial. Post-modern feminist.

YouTube - Chiarra AI

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