The next big title in DK Canada’s The Movie Book is the Kurosawa classic Rashomon. Serving as a commentary on the nature of man, the film tells a story of murder, rape, and truths.
Set against the backdrop of a gutted out and tumble down temple, a trio of characters come together to ruminate a court case that two of them have been witness to. As the film progresses we are taken through an incident four different ways, each of them claiming to be the truth, each clinging to a form of honour.
At the crux of the film is the story of Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune), a nefarious criminal, a samurai (Masayuki Mori) and the samurai’s wife (Machiko Kyo).
One by one their stories are recounted and though each one ends with the murder of the samurai (who tells his version of events through a medium), there are vast differences in each, as every character tells a story that supports their own beliefs, codes, and honour.
Human nature is on all full display here in both its light and darkness, as each character is shown to be able to do both good and bad things.
The stories that are unveiled show cruelty, as Tajomaru in each version of the tale stalks the Samurai and his Wife, until he is able to take the Wife against her will, while the Samurai is bound. Variations on pride, dishonour, manipulation and cruelty all play out leaving the men in the temple to ruminate on what the truth is, and perhaps one of them knows.
Setting the film in the temple, it’s collapsing nature, but the strong foundations can serve as a commentary on the nature of man, and is reflective of the characters themselves.
Kurosawa doles out the story easily, carefully, framing and revealing only as things become necessary. His camerawork, and production make the film look great, and Mifune’s stellar performance as Tajomaru, one of his earliest film roles is amazing to watch – that distinctive voice and look is recognisable and iconic.
This was my first experience with this film, and while it is an amazingly made film, and one of his best, it is not my favourite. Those are still coming up!
But I love the way the film is shot, the way it unfolds, and the nature of personal truth, honour, and what it says about our own nature, and whether we can be both good and evil, and if our silence makes us complicit in that evil – an idea that is resonating through the world once again.
It’s a fascinating watch, and it was thanks to DK Books’ The Movie Book that it came to my attention. But don’t take my word for it, pick up a copy and find a classic to watch tonight!