When a murdered man is found in the woods, a couple of people have to recall their own point of view of what happened in the murder trial. With each version of the story, facts change extensively.
It's always terrifying to review the work of someone as great and popular as Akira Kurosawa. I have actually never put much time into his work previously. I have seen a few titles, but I just didn't grow up with an interest in this kind of cinema, and later on with Film Bizarro to work on I was always focusing mostly on newer movies. Time to really go back for older films was never really there. But because Film Bizarro is whatever we want it to be, why not also use it as a vehicle to get into these movies that I haven't previously seen or appreciated fully? We all know I did it with Ingmar Bergman a few years ago. What time would be better to dig into these classics than during a generation of HD releases, right? Studio S Entertainment have just put out this fantastic boxset of Akira Kurosawa's samurai movies, and that's what I'll use as the starting point.
Three people are taking cover from a storm under the roof of the destroyed gatehouse Rashômon. As they wait for the rain to stop, they start to talk about a murder trial that two of them were testifying on. One of them, a wood cutter, was the one who discovered the dead body. The other people that were testifying were direct witnesses of the murder. The only problem is that while every story shares similarities, they differ so much in the motives and execution that it is nearly impossible to know who to blame.
The story of "Rashômon" is one that is very simple, but extremely well executed and written. It's a plot that has since become a classic that has been borrowed, adapted and even parodied ("the Rashomon effect"). You all know it, whether you have seen it or not. It's the simple premise of different people telling the same story differently. The story is captivating and with every person telling their version, you change person to root for. At some point in the movie, every person who was present at the murder has been suspicious and guilty in the eyes of the audience. And believe me, we are the ones to decide, as they are all testifying directly into the camera. But the greatness about "Rashômon" is that there is no real answer. There's no "The Usual Suspect" twist. It's up to us.
Every person delivering their version of the story is very different, thus influencing the story completely in how it is told. There's also a great play of perspective, as everyone knows what they have seen and they know it is real, but from their perspective it won't look the same as from another person's. So when we are left to our own to decide who is right, odds are that we will believe whoever is the most like ourselves.
"Rashômon" is a real beauty to watch for its story, but that doesn't mean that the photography and cinematography isn't equally as innovative and fascinating. The shots are wonderfully photographic, and the black and white woods and the shadows that the trees cast are just perfect in contrast with the murder story. I'm glad I have the chance to watch these movies on blu-ray thanks to Studio S Entertainment's brand new release. It might not be filled with extra material, but it's a wonderful restored transfer of the movie and a very deserved release in Sweden.
There is not a bad thing I can say about "Rashômon" other than the fact that it took me this long before I saw it. I'm not afraid to admit I have missed out on some huge classics, but I am also somewhat happy that movies like these are saved for now when I am older, possibly wiser, and can enjoy them in HD. "Rashômon" deserves all the love it has gotten over the years, and from now on I will be part of the choir.