Rashomon (1950)

Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • In the Woods Alternative

Introduction

“In more ways than one, Rashomon is like a vast distorting mirror or, better, a collection of prisms that reflect and refract reality.”
Donald Richie, The Films of Akira Kurosawa, 1984

The word ‘Rashomon’ has passed into the English language to signify a narrative told from various, unreliable viewpoints. In this case, the mystery relates to the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife in 11th century Japan, events which are relayed in wildly differing versions by those present: the bandit, the treacherous wife, a passing woodcutter and the spirit of the dead samurai.

This radically non-linear structure, with its profound implications about the fallibility of perspective, impressed judges at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. They awarded Akira Kurosawa’s film the Golden Lion, helping to encourage a broader interest in Japanese film in the west. With its snaking bolero-like score and poetic use of dappled forest light, Rashomon is a work of enduring ambiguity.

Vastly influential on subsequent film and television, Kurosawa’s film was directly remade by Hollywood as the western The Outrage (1964), starring Paul Newman.

Cast & Credits

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