A tragic story of the darkness within us all
"Rashomon" is dark and tragic exploration on the human perspective and the weakness of humanity. In what starts out as another rainy day, a priest (Minoru Chiaki), a wood cutter (Takashi Shimura) and a commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) are gathered under an old shrine to keep away from the rain. However, when the commoner sees how shaken up the wood cutter and priest are, he can't help but ask them what has them in such a shiver. It's then the viewer is told a dark story about a noble samurai, Takehiro (Masayuki Mori), escorting his wife, Masago (Machiko Kyo), through the woods until they run into a notorious bandit, Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune). Tajomaru sees the young and beautiful Masago and decides to kill Takehiro to get her. In a sequence of events, their meeting ends with the death of Takehiro. However, the story doesn't end there. In what follows, the viewers are treated to four different perspectives on how it happened with each story having its' own variation of the truth. Exposing human perspective as we all manipulate our stories to suit are own needs, and to simply justify our actions. Akira Kurosawa does a great job using a dark undertone theme to the film, that sends chills down the spine of anyone who sees this movie. Gripping audiences with a several variations of the same story each totally false, yet each containing some truth with the same elements of lust, envy, violence and tragedy. Enhanced by the brilliant performances of the entire cast, about the human perspective and the lies we all create affects our world, comes to life. "Rashomon" is a visual masterpiece using elements of film noir, and the first film to utilize the rotating camera technique. "Rashomon" is a powerful film that shall not be forgotten.
Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura and Machiko Kyo were just brilliant in their roles, as each actor presents strong conviction in their eyes and their body language, making it impossible for the viewer to distinguish the liar in the film. I remember when I saw Machiko Kyo crying as she testified before the judge, it seemed like her tears were just too genuine. It almost brought tears to my own eyes seeing her like that. However, when the viewer sees the story through Takehiro's point of view, she's seen as a heartless wench. Almost driving the viewer to want to strangle her. As for the Toshiro Mifune, what else can you say from this guy. He's proven once again how much of a great actor he is. Convincing the viewer that his story was one of an epic struggle and adventure. However, the best performance came from Takashi Shimura as he plays a common wood cutter that witnessed the entire incident.
Through the wood cutter, the audience is given a "third person" perspective on what happened. Even though Takashi's character has the least amount of reasons to lie, it's proven that his point of view can't be trusted either as he was just there to steal Takehiro's dagger. Hence, his opinion of the samurai and the bandit being pathetic, as they fought might have been just his own lie, so he wouldn't feel guilty about stealing from Takehiro after the fight. However, the wood cutter is also used to show that there is some good in humanity, as he offers to care for an orphan. Illustrating that humanity is filled with lies and greed but in that darkness, lies some good in us all.
The rotating camera makes this film a stunning visual work of art. Akira Kurasawa brilliantly uses this camera technique for a film noir effect as each story unfolds, thus creating a sense of mystery with the environment.
The symbolic representation of the darkness of our own perspectives as we see reality only to suit our own needs. When I first saw this film, it almost left me terrified at how true this film talks about human nature. Resonating a dark tone that sticks with the viewer after they have seen it.
"Rashomon" is truly a great film about the wickedness of humanity. Utilizing a great cast, and a new camera technique, Kurasawa is able to create one of the most visually stunning films ever made. "Rashomon" is truly a timeless classic for any true movie fan.