BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #64: Rashomon, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
I have a unique relationship with Rashomon. I used to be on an improv team that performed in the format of the film. We would perform a scene from a bunch of unique perspectives, then perform the “real” scene. I spent over a year analyzing this type of storytelling. As a result of that time I feel very close to this film.
Even after breaking down this type of storytelling for so long, I really enjoyed watching the film again. The way each character’s story has enough similarities that you can believe any of them are true. When you finally see the real story, it makes sense and you can buy why they each lied the way they did.
The third story, from the husband’s perspective, which is told through a medium, is the most ridiculous but also my favorite. It is ridiculous because it is told through a medium. Regardless of your beliefs in a supernatural afterlife, I don’t think anyone would really believe that his ghost is telling the story. That being said, the way the medium is shot is very creepy and effective. Her gown is made of billowy white satin and her dark hair flies around her face with her pale skin and painted on eyebrows, all of that combined with the deep voice that tells the story and it is very effective. The wind they use to whip around the fabric of her kimono and her hair adds to the creepiness and makes a really nice visual.
The part of the story that still remains a disconnect for me is the reaction of the two men retelling the story to the newcomer. It is true that a man died, which is very sad and would be very upsetting, but the way they describe the story it sounds like it will be a horrifying tale beyond our imaginations and it really isn’t. Especially when you hear what really happened, their reactions feel a little disproportionate.
The human instinct to lie to protect yourself or make yourself look better is completely understandable. And so often in real court cases witnesses will have varying perspectives or versions of the truth. As a result, Rashomon remains an effective film with a unique narrative style. Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon is not only a well-made, well-acted film, it is a fascinating exploration of humanity and storytelling.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Rashomon ranking: Battleship