Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rashomon & Seeing History

'Rashomon' (1950) proved a lot more watchable than I'd expected. The narrative tension/action entirely revolves around a violent rape and murder...and the Japanese acting style--and stylish black and white cinematography--is exotic enough to keep the modern imagination perked. (What I mean is: certain old films can cue a 'snooze effect' by virtue of long, ungenerous shots/pacing and corny thematics/dialogue).

The theme as you know is about shifting perspective and relative memory. As Robert Altman points out in his intro: we are used to thinking of things we see as truth, but Kurosowa challenges this unconscious assumption by presenting four equally plausible yet fundamentally conflicting versions of the same violent crime. You see how each person situates themself as the protagonist--the sympathetic party at the center of a whirlwind of events happening around them and to them. This is a problem occuring acutely to criminal investigators, but it occurs more globally across the pages of history--the very memory of man--as we try to set in stone a record of events that constitutes 'an absolute truth,' or a shared, agreed upon version of what happened.

Perhaps there's no such thing? Below you'll find a link to the original short story.

http://rene.malenfant.googlepages.com/rashomon

1 comment:

René said...

This is my website that you're linking to:
http://rene.malenfant.googlepages.com/rashomon


You realize, of course, that the movie Rashomon was not based on this story. It was based on "In a Grove" by the same author.