Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Running Time: 88 mins
Rashomon is a Japanese film about four people who recount the story of a murder in the forest, but no-one knows who to believe.
This a fantastically directed and acted film that is clearly one of the most influential of all time, in terms of cinematic techniques to advance films beyond the more theatrical Old Hollywood age into the modern era. It may be occasionally a little convoluted in its unorthodox story structure, but in general, this is a class that deserves big praise.
What is by far the most impressive is Akira Kurosawa’s directing. This is the first film of his that I’ve ever seen, and it was his first real breakout picture, so it’s a good place to start. What makes it so outstanding to look at is that he defied cinematic conventions at the time to create a very natural-looking and more energetic movie, in comparison to what people were used to, which was closer, more front-on camerawork that just didn’t feel as natural.
So, Kurosawa uses tracking shots, wide and long shots throughout to create more visual variety for you to watch and enjoy. He only reverts to the front-on shots when it’s absolutely necessary, in the trial scenes, but in general, this film looks as if it’s light years ahead of anything else that the rest of the world was producing in 1950, which is something that really needs to be recognised and continually commended.
The performances are also fantastic. The main actors tell their characters’ versions of the story brilliantly, and in general don’t go overboard with emotion or drama, but are still never too quiet and understated, which would be more boring to watch. (Although I do have to say that the main actress does go a little bit overboard in one of her scenes – she’s meant to – but it’s still way more than needed).
The story itself is also very impressive. Using the non-linear structure of telling the same story numerous times through flashback, it breaks yet another convention, and succeeds in doing that, as I felt quickly engrossed in the mystery of what really happened on that fateful day in the woods.
I do have to say that, as only one person is ultimately telling the truth, some of the stories do feel very convoluted, and especially when put back-to-back, can be a little confusing, which became somewhat frustrating to watch for me at points.
In general, though, Rashomon is a hugely impressive classic drama that not only succeeds in making an entertaining and interesting watch, but is also notable for breaking so many conventions of its time to begin a new wave in cinematic history, and that’s why it gets a 7.5 from me.