Rashomon (1950)

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“Akira Kurosawa's 1950 masterwork is a chilling, utterly memorable dissection of the nature of human communication”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

In a dark forest, a woman is raped and her husband, a samurai, is murdered by a bandit.  Four versions of the story unfold, each point of view offering a different perspective, a different ‘reality’.  Through a medium, the dead samurai claims he killed himself, unable to live with dishonour.  The bandit insists the sex was consensual and that he killed the samurai in a duel.  

The West was almost entirely ignorant of Japanese cinema before Rashomon screened at Venice in 1951 and won the Golden Lion.  Essentially a story about the subjective nature of truth, the film is set in the 11th Century.  The source lies in two short stories, Rashomon and In the Grove, written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, who died in 1927; he has been compared to Edgar Allan Poe.  

The film is notable for its adventurous photography, its innovative employment of light and shade, and for the skilled direction of the actors, notably the startlingly physical performance by Toshiro Mifune as the bandit accused of the crimes. Kurosawa had already made a dozen films prior to this extraordinary breakthrough and he deliberately set out to recreate the look and atmosphere of silent cinema.   

Supported by the Japan Foundation