Oldie Goldie: When Everyone Confesses To The Same Crime

Oldie Goldie - What if everyone confesses to having did the crime, even the victim himself?

By Hui Ling Chang


The modern young woman (or man) should be well-acquainted with the arts, and boast a decent knowledge on films on hand, old and new alike. Here we will introduce to you every week suggestions of films we like.

 

People LOVE the psychological dimension to character development, a big factor to a well-made story. A popular narrative technique is the unreliable narrator. Humans are flawed, and the self-serving nature of memory and recounts is a peculiar area for exploration of the human psyche. This oldie goldie examines human nature and the objectivity of narratives.

 

To begin, here are some quick not-always-fun facts about Rashomon the film:

  • The film came out in 1950
  • Directed by Akira Kurosawa
    • You might have heard of his other classics Seven Samurai and Yojimbo
    • His 1980 film Kagemusha is a Palme d’Or awardee
  • Story based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s works
    • The title and some elements are adapted from his short story Rashomon but,
    • The context of the story is drawn from another short story titled Yabu no Naka (In A Grove)
  • Ratings: PG. There is supposedly rape but it is not explicitly shown
  • Rotten Tomatoes gave it a full 100% and IMDb rated it at 8.3

 

What is the plot about?

It is pouring heavily and three strangers seeking shelter together talk about a recent court case. A murder has occurred and the court is stunned by what took place. Contrary to expectations, the three parties involved all own up to the crime with distinctly different accounts. One of the suspects is the dead man himself communicating via a medium. Who do you convict?

 

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Multi-perspective stories task you with piecing the story together. But in Rashomon, it makes you even more confused since each party gives their own believable yet warped versions of the same event. What then does the truth serve? Only to fuel each person’s pride and dignity. The bandit claims to have fought gallantly and exemplified masculinity; the wife of the victim acts according to values acceptable of women of that period; the victim in turn claims a more honorable death for himself. You would ask why a victim not expose his murderer. This story shows you why.

The beginning was slow. The film pays a lot of attention to story structure and setting up the mood for the narrative. Kurosawa draws inspiration from silent film genre in terms of the film’s aesthetic. The black and white of the minimalist set, dark and light, symbolizes the flickering compulsions of humanity. The backdrop of wilderness underlines the feral instincts of human.

The concept of selective memory from Rashomon continues to be used in subsequent acclaimed films.

 

Random Fun Fact

This film coined the ‘Rashomon effect’, meaning “contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people”.