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Rashomon: The Audience,The Truth, and The Baby.

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    Jeremy

    I should note, my views come largely from Kurosawa’s directing cues, something I feel more comfortable with, rather then diving deeply in the story, in which I feel is rather straight forward giving these upcoming directing cues. I feel that often a movie’s story is heavily analyzed, while mostly ignoring the way the director has even presented it to be analyzed.

    The audience as the main character

    What I find to be perhaps to most overlook character in the movie is us, being we the audience(I‘ll use “we“ and “us“ to signify “the audience“). We play two characters, the second witness to the events as they happened, and as court room attendees. I’ll explain further, but must first established a overlook concept to Rashomon.

    Film has always been truth, what we see, is what happened, actions can not lie. The audience is witness to the action of the screen, and outside the characters that maybe lied to by others, we know the truth always, or will learn the truth in the end. The audience is a spectator looking quietly at what is happening, and judging what occurs.

    In Rashomon we are lied to, a rather unique film concept, everything we seen may, or may not of happened.

    We lose our place in the movie, we lose our upper hand, our god like knowledge of all events occurring to all characters. We must now rely on the movies characters, to give us knowledge, we become dependent.

    Since film is obviously a visual medium, and we know that indeed we are lied to by at least one or multi characters, its safe to assume we are simply being told about the story from the various character, only that due to the medium we see it what is being said. A lie cannot be considered true, it we visually seen what happened, however if we are only told about it, without actually seeing it, then a lie has the possibility of being consider fact.

    As audience members, we always know the truth, but in Rashomon we do not. Only characters in the movie can be lied to, and we are directly lied to on many occasions. If we the audience have now lost our supreme oversight of the events, we can no longer be consider the audience, we drop down to a simple character in the movie. Only a character in the movie can be lied to.

    The woodcutter is largely the story teller, this is given evidence during his short narration at the beginning of the movie. However Kurosawa makes us aware that perhaps, we too are a witness to what happened, but with limitations. Kurosawa does several things, he first establishes the forest with the tilt up to the sky though the tree. His second and rather important shot is on the axe, we walk along side it, and this is done first before we see the woodcutter.

    axe(8:00)

    We then get a close up of the woodcutter, establishing his presence. Then on and off, Kurosawa throws us in the woods and along the path of the woodcutter.

    Here we are now off in the woods following along the woodcutter.

    afar(8:15)

    We then get a tilt down shot of a large tree, giving us scale, as well we the audience role in the story, and our are new placement, while maintaining our path and connection with the woodcutter.

    tree(8:21)

    We then get a series of closer up, but off the path follows of the woodcutter. A tilt up to the sky and we now arrive directly behind the woodcutter (the woodcutter first establishing shot, we are in front, perhaps we are just now catching up to him, after wondering off).

    behind(8:46)

    We then get slightly further away from the woodcutter, a shot of the sky.

    And then this wonderful pass off, in which we cross from the woodcutter‘s right side, unto the woodcutter’s left for the first time.

    1

    2

    3

    (9:05-9:20)

    From a directing standpoint the right side of a frame is considered the strong, masculine side, and the left side being the weak, feminine side. We can conclude that we are on the right side, as in frame “2” we clearly came from the woodcutters right side, meet him dead on, and walk around to his left side.

    We, the audience pass from a strong view, to a weak and drifting view, the woodcutter now has authority and focus.

    In fact after the 180* change during the pass off, the camera(us) starts to drift far behind the woodcutter, the first time we are not along him. We the audience are passed off, and now more or less listening to the woodcutter’s point of view. There is a series of in the wood views, followed by close behind the head view, and then to a extreme close-up of the woodcutter, this appears to be a means of redirecting our thinking. (In some way we are still around, but perhaps off cutting wood, witness to the events but with limitation and view obstruction. We are unaware to what the woodcutter is doing, and it is the woodcutter’s closer viewpoint to the action that we must rely upon for clarity.)

    Based off this, we are simply another person under the Rashomon gate, we are just listening in to the retelling of the story to the commoner.

    The three men under the gate(we exclude ourselves), the woodcutter-the story teller; the priest-more or less a moral filler; the commoner-more or less Kurosawa himself and not us the audience.

    The commoner I explain..

    At no point does Kurosawa present the commoner as us, the audience. The commoner joins us, already under the Rashomon. Kurosawa after first establishing the gate, presents his first strong opening shot. We are right under the gate, and to the woodcutter’s right.

    We are contemplating what we just witnessed, along with the woodcutter and the priest.

    us(2:27)

    Along comes the commoner, joining us.

    commoner(3:05)

    The commoner, thinks as I have at least thought Kurosawa to do so. The commoner’s comments would fit right into Kurosawa’s autobiography. The commoner, does represent everyday people, like us the audience, but he is not us the viewer, we are the second woodcutter. (make sense?)

    The priest is merely a device for the commoner to reflect off of. It is the priest that represents the general humanity notion that all people are good. It is the commoner however that points out, much like Kurosawa often does, that humanity continually shows that all people are in the end are everything they look down upon and pretend not to be.

    The priest attempts to preach morals several times, the commoner stops him, mentioning he doesn’t want to hear his lessons. Kurosawa does not preach, he merely reflects what is true in his movies. It is the commoner that reminds us to what people truly are and this is what Kurosawa represents in his films previous and directly after Rashomon. The commoner also tells use, the story is worth nothing if it can not entertain, this is the very core of Kurosawa thinking.


    We, the audience, are also attendees of the court proceedings. Us being unable to see clearly the events, need to hear the testimonies to help decide what really happened. We are equal to all that speak, and they are aware of us and they desire to persuade our thoughts on the events, as equally to the person(s) holding the trial. Equal being that the camera is positioned face level with them, although during their more emotional talks, we move slightly above them. This is often done to represent the ability to look down upon and judge.

    Evidence of this is presented when, supposedly the court asks a question and the one giving their testimony is clearly looking up over the camera(us). The judge being positioned higher then they are, and higher then we are, as would be normal if we are mere commoners.

    look1

    look2

    look3

    look4

    However with the exceptions of the characters answers the judge’s off camera question, and them looking down to contemplate the situation, or signifying deep thought, they speak directly at us.

    If we are character in the film, then we are their peers, and its their peers they most desire to please. This would be normal, they wanting to maintain their creditability with their own kind, the very people they hang around with.

    It important to note, that Kurosawa avoids having the character stare at us too often, for the time fact its awkward, limits character body acting, and is consider a big no-no in cinematography. To do it, it must been done carefully and sparingly.

    Tajomaru actually stares at us and the judge back and forth for a short while. To me showing clearly two different people to he is speaking to.

    stare(31:30)

    The woman/wife, doesn’t stare specifically right at us, but we must take in to account her current status in Japanese culture. To avoid getting to long,(if ask, I’ll be willing to get into detail) I’ll just state that her direct eye contact would be considered rude, as a female that has been with two men, her status has lowered to below that of a commoner. We should also take into account her emotions and possible in character over-acting. The commoner in the movie makes a great point, when he mentions that a woman will lie with her tears.

    stare2(42:38)

    The witch stares at us longer then any other character, the husband she is possessed by, based off he character would plead more the us, rather then a judge that can do nothing to him.

    stare3(54:51)

    The woodcutter, and the priest would not look at us, as they only speak briefly to the judge in which to answer if off screen questions. They have no reason at the time to appeal to us, they are not accused of any wrong doing.

    The ultimate truth and the baby’s importance

    We are present with varying tales of the same event, the bandit(Tajomaru), the husband and the wife, all have something to gain and lose, so they lie in some way to present themselves as the only good in the evil events.

    I should first point out, that the wife is a prize, and so much a character of importance in the beginning. This notion also fits well into Japanese culture of the time period. I base her status as a prize upon a few key shots Kurosawa uses.

    Tajomaru first mentions she looked like a goddess. And we get a wonderful low shot, tilted up, with the sunlight though the trees highlighting her face, while the cloth over her head asks a mystical fuss, we are also giving rather mystical music during this scene. What more can one do to present the wife, as the prize, the sole-rose on top the mountain.

    goddess

    goddess2

    (19:05; 17:48)

    To highlight the fact that the wife is a prize, several things occur.

    First this nice bit of directing.

    The husband with his “prize” on the horse, spots Tajomaru laying under the tree and stops dead in his tracks.

    Kurosawa present us with this; the tree perhaps representing the only wall in Tajomaru’s goal in taking the “prize” from the husband.

    wall(18:17)

    To show that indeed both are aware of each other, and the desire of the husband to defend his “prize” and the desire for the bandit(Tajomaru) to steal his prize, Kurosawa give this face-off.

    A back and forth of the husband and Tajomaru.

    faceoff

    faceoff2

    (18:10-18:30)

    Tajomaru however goes back to resting, perhaps his desire is not yet strong to steal. Upon Tajomaru re-resting, the husband decides to continue onward.

    However Tajomaru reawaking as the husband and his wife/prize walks by. We she Tajomaru more aware as to how great this “prize” truly is. Kurosawa gives us some more of the before mentioned goddess appearance of the wife, and Mifune give us this great bit for a reaction shot.

    react

    react2

    (18:57-19:25)

    We also get a nice tracking shot, and Tajomaru following the wife/prize with his eyes

    eyes(19:21)

    Tajomaru then ponders the prize and makes the decision to steal it, with again Mifune as usual giving a fantastic bit of acting, showing his thoughts, by looking up and grabbing his sword.

    sword(19:47)

    Now granted this is Tajomaru telling this, it is however never debated or redone throughout the movie. We can base this bit as fact, as its only really goes to make sense.

    So, there is a establishment that both Tajomaru and the husband, give great value and desire for the “prize”.

    This becomes important.

    The wife’s story

    With the above in consideration, I will dismiss near the entirely of the wife’s story, as its the most inconstant of the others, based upon one upon several key evidences.

    Its only her story in which she is the absolute victim and both her husband and Tajomaru are the monsters of her demise. Neither man prizes her, and this goes against the directing and the other stories.

    The husband outright denies her, granted after she was raped, it could be said that customary she is worthless to him. However the husband lacks any desire to kill Tajomaru and shows no emotion for the lost of his “prize”, he so early clearly define his willingness to defend. Tajomaru after to suppose absolute rape of the wife, just runs off, and never actually steals the “prize”. It is the wife that in the end has the most to lose in this trial. Tajomaru is a infamous bandit, and the husband is dead. What is left is a woman that must convince everyone that she was entirely the unwilling party of her being with two man. A fate as she mentions, and goes along with Japanese culture, worse then death. This also would point to her over-acting and as the commoner mentioned supposed lying with her tears.

    With the wife’s story there is no valued prize. In Tajomaru’s story he clearly show how much he values the wife, though his facial action, trouble he goes though and the willingness to kill to obtain it.

    In the husband’s story he show his value for his wife after she is lost, by crying under the tree and committing suicide in sadness.

    cry(58:46)

    sucide

    (59:59)

    In both Tajomaru’s and the husband’s story the wife is more or less a partial willing participant in the supposed rape. Both Tajomaru and the husband in some ways give each other respect. Tajomaru comments on the husbands fighting skills and the husband points out Tajomaru’s dislike of the way his wife has betrayed him.(Tajomaru with his foot on the wife, ask the husband, with his word he would kill her)

    The husband’s / witch’s story

    The husband is very much like the wife, he becomes the absolute victim. He is the one tricked and the one betrayed. He also overacts in his trial, granted he uses a witch for the interruption, but which goes though various stages of trances very similar to how the wife acts.

    Extreme deep pain/sorrow.

    witchknees

    (52:18)

    wifeknees

    (47:35)

    Over-the-top pain/sorrow–it should be noted, that more movement and acting would be normal from the witch as she is possessed, and the wife would be more subtle.

    witchover 1:00:21

    wifeover(48:06)

    The husband although with nothing to really lose, plays the victim of despair, in some ways he wants pity, while not making him out as a the weaker fighter.

    He is a equal fighter to Tajomaru, but his heart is broken and unable to fight. This he avoids the possibility that he lost the fight, but in the process avoid showing his early strong desire to defend his wife. He make no attempt at seeking revenge or defense, this goes against the directing and his established character.

    By lying he is perhaps trying to highlight his broken heart and glorify his sorrow and suicide. He wants to come off as a hero, despite losing.

    I will come back to him briefly later.

    Tajomaru’s story and The woodcutter’s story.

    Tajomaru is simple, he really has no true reason to lie, he is a infamous bandit, but that doesn’t make him a liar.

    First he tells some assumed truths, the entire means in which he is able to capture the husband goes un-debated. He also establishes how the husband is wary of him and his willingness to defend his wife and he gives credit to the husband’s swordsmanship. He also admits his forgetfulness/stupidity in forgetting about the fancy dagger. So far Tajomaru comes off rather honest.

    Tajomaru mentions the semi-willingness of the wife’s rape.

    The woodcutter appears to come in late in the events, after the rape. What he does mention although different from Tajomaru is the willingness of the wife, she is willing to go with whomever is the greater.

    The woodcutter also maintains Tajomaru’s honesty as he mentions Tajomaru apologizing to the wife, he points out Tajomaru’s regret and willingness to make up for what he did.

    In both the woodcutter’s and Tajomaru’s story there is a long battle that takes place. This supports what is established fact that the husband is very willing to defend his wife/”prize”. This alone disproves both the wife’s and the husband’s story.

    The how and the reaction of slight unwillingness of Tajomaru right before he kills the husband is the same as well.

    The woodcutter’s–Tajomaru is nervous, slightly unwilling and throws the sword for the kill.

    kill1(1:16:06)

    Tajomaru’s–makes himself out to be a bit more calmer, but his unwillingness is much the same. He too throws his sword.

    kill2

    (34:56)

    Note the two different point of views, that sync up in a correct way. Tajomaru’s screenshot is up close, sort of a the husbands POV shot and the woodcutter’s back in the distance, as expected from a hidden witness.

    We now have two accounts that in their core match perfectly, but predictably share different points of view and willing and/or unwilling lies.

    The woodcutter, the commoner and the very important baby

    The woodcutter didn’t want to get involved, but after hearing the stories, he starts to contemplate under the rashomon gate.

    As mention we are a character under the rashomon along side the woodcutter and the priest. We already know the story of the woodcutter’s but since in reality as the audience we have not, the commoner is introduced and thus a reason to “re-hear” the story.

    The woodcutter has no reason what so ever to lie about anything he saw. The mere fact that it syncs for the most part with Tajomaru’s story gives it credit. Off that we can base he is a creditable witness.

    However the wise commoner, ask what happened to this fancy dagger.

    It would seem as though now we can not believe the woodcutter as he too is a liar. –wrong, Kurosawa treats him with great care at the end.

    First although he doesn’t directly admit to taking the dagger, he also never denies this. This is allowed to be assumed fact in the movie.

    However he goes on to mention that he has 6 kids, certainly we must forgive this man and not reduce his creditable over a simple dagger. He ability to feed the kids takes over anything else we just saw in the movie. The woodcutter takes a dagger, that is of no importance to the wife, husband, or Tajomaru. He is no doubt poor and would only be natural to take advantage of his findings in this tragedy.

    The weight of 6 children is much higher then a betraying wife, and a bandit. Along with the fact that the woodcutter has done nothing to start these events.

    Kurosawa goes to get length to give the woodcutter redemption for his lies and thievery. This is all done to give credit to his story of the events and to allow us to make a decision as to what really happened.

    The baby, give the entire movie reflection, allows us the audience to think and relax a bit, the baby puts perceptions back in order.

    First the woodcutter takes the left behind child, this is redemption for his wrong doing.

    The baby is a tool for perception and completion. Without the baby, the story simple stalls and fold in with itself. The baby gives us hope, and give the woodcutter back his goodness.

    It the priest that hands over the baby, the priest as before mentioned representing humanity as a whole belief that they are good, handing over a innocent baby to a flaw ordinary man-the woodcutter-you and me. The priest does this in the belief that indeed although men is flaw and evil, they still contain good.

    Then Kurosawa leaves us with these series of shots.

    lastshot 2(1:27:21)

    At first we are equal to the woodcutter, the camera is for the most part eye level. The woodcutter is looking at the baby, to make a connection.

    last1(1:27:34)

    As the woodcutter continues to walk away, he begins to transcend.

    The camera is below eye level, tilted up and the woodcutter center frame–in directing concepts this is done to give power to woodcutter over us, the audience. The woodcutter as elevated to what humans should strive to be, despite the flaws.

    The woodcutter is looking upwards, and with a smile-he has in a sense be reborn and re-giving hope for humanity.

    In the background stand the priest, he is the overseer of all humanity’s values, and allows this flawed man(the woodcutter) the redeem himself and take the innocent and pure baby.

    With the baby the woodcutter leaves the rashomon and there is no rain and the camera continues a strong up tilt-given more power to the woodcutter.

    lastshot3(1:27:42)

    In the end Tajomaru is the least of the liars, out of the three people involved. The woodcutter is the only one not lying. And in between Tajomaru’s story and the woodcutter’s is the ultimate truth. As we the audience are another character, we should take the woodcutter’s story as fact, with the understanding that he too be wrong, but largely unknowingly.

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    Jon Hooper

    I would just like to add a few comments to your analysis of Rashomon. I am so pressed for time that I cannot really do much more than write as I think (no time to refine my thoughts at present) but I do want to offer something back for this brilliant analysis. I must say that this is one of the best readings of Rashomon that I’ve yet read. It taught me a lot of things that I’ve never thought about, particularly from the point of view of the director’s choices. I think we are privileged to have someone with a background in film and I learned a lot, so thank you.

    Just a few responses:

    > From a directing standpoint the right side of a frame is considered the strong, masculine side, and the left side being the weak, feminine side.

    This is really fascinating. It made me search for an underlying rationale for this, to no success. Does it come from our tendency to move from left to right when we read? In other words, do we associate moving towards the right side of linear space with progress and the left with its reverse?

    > We the audience are passed off, and now more or less listening to the woodcutter’s point of view.

    I’ve learned from this the way Kurosawa moves from the initial P.O.V. of an external witness to events he/she does not really understand, which in the introductory scenes, to being in line with the woodcutter’s story.

    > The commoner’s comments would fit right into Kurosawa’s autobiography. The commoner, does represent everyday people, like us the audience, but he is not us the viewer, we are the second woodcutter.

    I follow you on the point about the woodcutter, but I do not agree that the commoner expresses K’s views, because Kurosawa, I believe, and I base this on what he wrote in his autobiography and elsewhere, has compassion and hope mingled with bitterness. It’s been termed Kurosawa’s “bitter humanism,” I don’t recall by whom. Kurosawa would agree up to a point with the commoner, I think, but the perspective the commoner has on the fact that people always lie (something that cannot be doubted) does not tally with Kurosawa’s. Is perhaps the priest closer to Kurosawa (the priest too accepts that people lie, but clings to hope)? I think it is safe to say that the commoner is not bothered by conscience, he accepts and even enjoys the fact that the world is filled with liars. He does not appear to see anything tragic in this, which of course Kurosawa does. I do think, though, that the commoner in a way reflects an aspect of the director, the despair that sometimes surfaces, minus the bitter humanism. But even in Ran, I believe, Kurosawa at no point strays from his basic belief that people are untrustworthy and often murderous but that this is tragic. Having said that, perhaps the commoner does represent one of the voices that speak in his mind.

    > Equal being that the camera is positioned face level with them, although during their more emotional talks, we move slightly above them. This is often done to represent the ability to look down upon and judge.

    Great insight. This is something that fascinates me and also something I could see myself grasping. But what did not occur to me at all is that our P.O.V. is as a commoner, as evidenced when they look above the camera at the implied position of the judge (higher than us, as you say). I’m not totally convinced yet, however, that we are meant to be a position of equality, but it is an interesting way of looking at it, and I mean to give it some more thought.

    > Kurosawa present us with this; the tree perhaps representing the only wall in Tajomaru’s goal in taking the “prize” from the husband.

    Great analysis of this shot.

    > What is left is a woman that must convince everyone that she was entirely the unwilling party of her being with two man. A fate as she mentions, and goes along with Japanese culture, worse then death. This also would point to her over-acting and as the commoner mentioned supposed lying with her tears.

    Yes, but would this woman, since she is lying anyway, not conceal the fact that she killed her husband, or remove any doubt that she might have done? If she did not, why would she suggest such a thing by describing her faint? And if she did, why does she not change the basic fact, or blame the murder on Tajomaru? Of course, if one accepts that the woodcutter murdered the husband with the dagger (as some critics do), and the wife really did faint and regain consciousness, she might simply be arguing for sympathy and compassion, and implying that she has no memory of how the husband was killed (if she had not seen the woodcutter, she would have thought herself, in some kind of fit, guilty of the crime, and may not be mendacious enough to shift the blame on to someone else).

    > In the husband’s story he show his value for his wife after she is lost,

    I don’t think that the husband does show value for his wife. I think he presents himself as a victim, certainly, of her betrayal, but he demonises her, something I will cover at greater length in my own analysis.

    > Tajomaru is simple, he really has no true reason to lie, he is a infamous bandit, but that doesn’t make him a liar.

    Indeed he admits the rape and to killing the husband, but he lies not to avoid punishment (he is already wanted and, one can infer, his fate would be sealed anyway for other crimes) but to make himself into a cunning and swashbuckling figure.

    > Tajomaru’s–makes himself out to be a bit more calmer, but his unwillingness is much the same.

    I hadn’t realized this detail matches up; what comes across most strongly to me is the difference in the duels. Tajomaru’s is inflated heroic, the one the woodcutter witnessed is cowardly and some would suggest much more realistic.

    > It would seem as though now we can not believe the woodcutter as he too is a liar. –wrong, Kurosawa treats him with great care at the end.

    I agree; though it is possible to argue, I think, that he changed substantially more, perhaps even that the swordfight did not take place, and to take his decision to adopt the baby as a way of seeking to appease his conscience; a kind of atonement.

    > The woodcutter takes a dagger, that is of no importance to the wife, husband, or Tajomaru.

    I agree completely about this, and also that Kurosawa treats him kindly. For me, too, the woodcutter is a sympathetic figure and my reading of his function is much the same as yours.

    > The baby is a tool for perception and completion. Without the baby, the story simple stalls and fold in with itself.

    Of all the interpretations of Rashomon that I’ve read, yours is closest to my own reading and the one I find most convincing. I think that the film is a classic case of a work’s meaning depending on what one’s own ideas happen to be and I am not surprised that so many critics were disappointed when Kurosawa dares to lead them out of the thicket of their own hearts.

    > The priest does this in the belief that indeed although men is flaw and evil, they still contain good.

    Is this, rather than the commoner’s position, closer to Kurosawa’s own? Or could one perhaps argue that both the commoner and the priest represent two conflicting sides of the director’s thoughts, as I mentioned earlier, and by extension of the viewer’s. In the middle, then, would be the woodcutter, who finally comes over to the priest’s side, whereas the theft of the dagger had placed him firmly on the side of the commoner. I argue something along these lines in my own analysis, which I will try to get typed up shortly.

    > In the end Tajomaru is the least of the liars, out of the three people involved.

    This is something that I find most interesting, and I think it is worth noting the original title of the Rashomon script: Male-Female. Perhaps pointing to the fact the real liars are the husband and wife?

    Once again, great analysis and thanks for posting it here.

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    Jeremy

    Thanks for the compliments, I found your comments really interesting, I look forward to what you have to say.

    Your disagreements are well done, and at present leave with with nothing to counter with. Certainly this movie is no easy task for debating, and I can agree with what you have to say in many ways, however the agreement is still less then my own. (duh) Of course who is closer to being correct, is near impossible to decide. .

    There is really only one thing I can give more detail about.

    > From a directing standpoint the right side of a frame is considered the strong, masculine side, and the left side being the weak, feminine side.

    This is really fascinating. It made me search for an underlying rationale for this, to no success. Does it come from our tendency to move from left to right when we read? In other words, do we associate moving towards the right side of linear space with progress and the left with its reverse?

    The rationale, is indeed the natural progression of eyes scanning left to right, its physiology in nature. (This happens outside the way we read, as traditionally Japanese would read right to left, however everyone scans their environment left to right. )

    The differences in left side and right side, goes back to roughly painting from the 1400’s.

    What was discovered was that subjects on the left side tend to trigger a calm, and peaceful sense from the viewer. Subjects on the right side, trigger a sense of power, and force from the viewer.

    It wasnt till really the 1800’s when the churches had extreme control in all arts established complete dominance is always on the right. This is what believe coined the term “The right hand of god”, and the thinking that left handed people where evil, as the devil being that weaker then god would most naturally be on the left.

    If you look at painting from the 1800s you will find that priest are always on the right, everyone else on the left. (L’Eminence Grise by Jean Leon Gerome is a great example)

    The “masculine” side, and the “feminine” side, should not be consider exclusive to gender, just again the churches established established woman are the weaker sex, and thus the terminology.

    When movies came about you start to see this being played with a lot, practically with women. The side depended on the situation.

    A great example is Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” (1960) when he wishes to make the woman come off as the essence of youth, and desire, is nearly always on the left side of the frame. In one scene she is leaning against a stair casing outside, she is on the left and three men, that clearly desire her are on the right staring at her. When she starts to lose her innocence of youth, you see her occupying more of the right frame, till in several scenes she is strong right framed. Giving her a apperance, that goes along with the story that she is no longer a young girl but of woman, that has come to realization-thus making her stronger.

    This work the same way, when we are giving a POV, or our eyes are the cameras. The best example is WWII Nazi propaganda films, in which always we the viewer are position lower and to the left of Hitler.

    However when Americans presented films of Hitler they if possible would position us the viewer eye level, and to his right. This giving Americans the sense that Hilter is nothing more then a man. While Nazi attempted to present him as a god.

    Note that although the camera is always our eyes, in most movies the camera is not us, just how else can we see what going on. It not until you objects get in the way of the camera, like trees in Rashomon in which we get the scenes that our eyes are the camera. Although directing plays a big role, in objects in the way is doesnt always mean the same thing but in Rashomon clearly A.K. throws many thing in our way and we even push pass them.

    Just like to highlight this.

    I follow you on the point about the woodcutter, but I do not agree that the commoner expresses K’s views, because Kurosawa, I believe, and I base this on what he wrote in his autobiography and elsewhere, has compassion and hope mingled with bitterness. It’s been termed Kurosawa’s “bitter humanism,” I don’t recall by whom. Kurosawa would agree up to a point with the commoner, I think, but the perspective the commoner has on the fact that people always lie (something that cannot be doubted) does not tally with Kurosawa’s. Is perhaps the priest closer to Kurosawa (the priest too accepts that people lie, but clings to hope)? I think it is safe to say that the commoner is not bothered by conscience, he accepts and even enjoys the fact that the world is filled with liars. He does not appear to see anything tragic in this, which of course Kurosawa does. I do think, though, that the commoner in a way reflects an aspect of the director, the despair that sometimes surfaces, minus the bitter humanism. But even in Ran, I believe, Kurosawa at no point strays from his basic belief that people are untrustworthy and often murderous but that this is tragic. Having said that, perhaps the commoner does represent one of the voices that speak in his mind.

    I would have to agree with you, true that Kurosawa doesnt exclusively make himself the commoner. Perhaps where I saw the priest as nothing more then a device for the commoner to reflect off of. He is instead more correctly as you mention another side of Kurosawa.

    In which case I would think rather fair to consider the commoner and the priest two different sides of Kurosawa.

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    Vili Maunula

    Edit: I figured out how to make screenshots, so I partially rewrote this post from what I had originally written about half an hour before.

    Wow. I absolutely agree with Sanjuro in that it is great to have someone in our midst who knows how to handle a camera.

    There is a lot to digest in Jeremy’s post, so I think I will take it in smaller pieces, concentrating on a single issue at a time.

    One thing that most intrigued me in Jeremy’s post was the idea about us being, on some level, a character sitting together with the priest and the woodcutter as the film begins. So, I went through the opening shots, and I am actually not sure if I fully agree with Jeremy’s analysis here. (My intention is not just to disagree with Jeremy, by the way — this just happened to be the bit that most caught my attention from Jeremy’s post. There is a lot in there that I agree with as well, more about those later.)

    To me, the opening shots (after the titles), if anything, actually seem to distance us from the priest and the woodcutter. Inspired by Jeremy’s screeshots, here is my shot-by-shot analysis with my own screenshots.

    Sorry about the shot quality — my laptop won’t play the region 1 Criterion, so these are from a Chinese DVD which I had lying around. I’ve also compressed the images quite a bit for faster loading.

    The first shot after the titles (which all were external shots of the Rashomon gate) is a long shot of the gate.

    1

    This is soon followed by a closer shot of the gate.

    2

    Then a shot that gives us the first glimpse of the priest and the woodcutter, but only from a distance and obscured by some debris in the forefront of the shot.

    3

    All these shots are external, establishing the setting and slowly taking us to the priest and the woodcutter.

    This is followed by a closer and clearer shot of the two.

    4

    And then the shot that Jeremy posted here, here’s my version:

    5

    Unlike what Jeremy noted, this shot does not make me feel as belonging together with the priest and the woodcutter. Instead, at least for me this shot is actually very alienating. The two are not facing towards us, but staring at something else. In fact, their stares seem to be fixed at something that is not here, something that I cannot grasp at all. Their brief dialogue also leaves me an outsider — what is it after all that they are talking about? No, I don’t feel like belonging with these people.

    This is followed by the close-up of the priest, and then a medium long frontal shot of the two sitting together.

    6

    7

    This latter is to me, again, quite an alienating shot, one that again makes me feel as not being together with the two characters.

    After this, we get a long shot of the gate with the commoner soon starting his run towards the gate. This shot of him running towards the gate lasts for a considerable while, in fact a full 12 seconds.

    8

    Now, if we actually were meant to be a character at the gate, I would imagine that we would see the commoner running towards us. Instead, however, he is running away from us and towards the gate — his trajectory follows that of the trajectory of our gaze.

    There are two quick cuts…

    9

    10

    …and then the commoner arrives under the gate. The first shot we get of him is from his left, admittedly from the direction that Jeremy suggested we would inhabit at this point, i.e. the position from which we earlier looked at the priest and the woodcutter.

    11

    This is, in fact, exactly where the following shot takes us, putting us back to that spot left of the woodcutter and the priest:

    12

    What happens next, however, is truly fascinating considering what we have noted before. We now get a closer shot of the commoner…

    13a

    …who then starts to walk towards the priest and the woodcutter with the camera following his movement…

    13b

    …and where he walks is to the left of the priest and the woodcutter — in fact pretty much where “our” shots had previously come from, where we were supposed to be!

    13c

    Could you actually say that what has happened here is that the commoner has now taken our position? That he has indeed become us? I know that this is not at all what Jeremy argued above — actually, it is rather what I argued before, so maybe I’m just seeing things only the way I subconsciously want to (but isn’t that appropriate for the film!).

    In any case, this to me seems to be the point where the introductory sequence with the three characters ends. After this, the explanation of the situation itself begins, and the real dialogue starts. To mark the difference, most of the shots from this point onwards until the woodcutter’s tale are close-ups, given from various different positions, and compositionally seem quite different from the shots up until now.

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    Jeremy

    I follow completely your feeling of distance from the woodcutter and priest, but I cant understand it.

    so maybe I’m just seeing things only the way I subconsciously want to (but isn’t that appropriate for the film!).

    Your comment, goes for me as well.

    I will Vili’s shots to explain how I see them, is just easier then describing the shots.

    I want to first point out, that right now the camera is not us, there is absolutely nothing to suggest that–yet.

    intro

    I disagree on Vili referring this to a distancing shot. To me its a establishing shot of the Rashomon, and doe several important things: (no specfic order)

    1: It shows off Kurosawa’s massive gate he had built, something I would personally want seen in its entirety.

    2: It gives scale shortly later- In drama is always nice to remind people, how small and insignificant we really are, it spawns feelings of humbleness.

    3: With the above mentioned scale, In someway it shows that men can create things bigger then themselves, in this case, we can create lies, and troubles much larger then we can even understand and deal with.

    4: It shows off the down pour of rain, in which Kurosawa certainly loves using, it adds a great deal to the mood.

    Vili’s post then gives shots that get closer, reveling the woodcutter and priest. Again this hovers around my list above. After the scale has been set, we now need to actually see the people, so slowly we come in closer, while remaining scale placement. This too acts as the woodcutter and priest establishing shots.

    Vili points out that we get closer to the character but with debris in the way:

    2intro

    intro3

    To me the logical reason behind this, is to prevent a jump cut and a workaround a technology disadvantage.

    If you imagine the first shot, we see the large rashomon gate, but cant really make out there is anyone under there. If Kurosawa just cut to the a medium close up of the two character, he would of created a jump cut. A jump cut, is basically self explaining, out of nowhere your just jumping to another scene and making no connection with the last. If we see the gate, and then hit with the two character, we would be confused as where we now are, and where these people came from. It would take precious seconds for the audience to make a connection, something you must avoid especially in the opening of a movie.

    The reason for the debris is to soften each jump, since as we get closer the rashomon in a sense gets smaller and the character get bigger, we need something to stop us, remind us where we are, all while showing we are getting closer. The debris come out of nowhere, but we understand it, because we still see everything from the opening shot-just closer.

    The 2nd cut with the debris larger, does much the same, keep the debris as we know about it, but get closer to it letting us know we are indeed getting closer to the gate. This again reminds us of scale and softens the cut.

    in4

    The 3rd cut, we fully understand we have moved so close as to pass up the debris and have the characters now occupy much of the frame. To me a logical move.

    Now Kurosawa is free to move about both with in the gate and outside it, these cuts where nothing more then to free himself.

    Perhaps, although personally I would prefer the Kurosawa cuts, a modern movie, would use tracks and do a dolly push in shot. Then with a computer edit out the visible tracks. This works because its a smooth continuous move, and we keep everything Kurosawa work hard to prevent losing when he was forced to use cuts to make the move.


    lookdown

    Vili mentions they dont look at us and their stares are fixed on something not there.

    Indeed, they are thinking deeply, staring at nothing, they have no reason to look at us, because we too are doing the same thing.

    At this point the camera is us, the audience.

    Now Kurosawa cant point the camera at the dirt, or whatever they are staring at, that would be pointless. So instead he gives us them to look at, we get across their feeling of deep thought and confusion. What their faces look like, it what our look like, and what we are feeling. It sort of foreshadowing our thoughts.

    Remember according to my thinking, we already know everything, like the woodcutter and priest. The commoner comes in and is told the story, he is a reason why the story is re-told and because in reality we haven’t heard the story, its now our chance.

    The woodcutter is not speaking to us, or even the priest, he is speaking to himself, thinking out loud. Just the priest hears it, and responds to it.

    When we get the shot of the priest alone, looking at the woodcutter off frame, its simply a reaction shot, an idea as to what we are self would think.

    humble

    Vili calls this shot alienating–alright; I call it humbling. Let me break it down for what it is-or really as I see it.

    frame

    This is a known as a ‘frame in frame”, notice that the square the rashomon is making is much the same aspect of the movie’s frame.( the aspect of the inner frame, depends on what your trying to get across, and doesnt alway require it to be the same as the movie) By shrinking down the frame using items in the movie, be they walls, columns, debris, etc you can create many effects.

    In this movie’s case a feeling of humbling, and yes to some degree alienation, but of your thoughts alienating you. (something like that anyway)

    We are no longer the camera for that shot.

    Kurosawa would be foolish to hold true to the camera being us, he would lose the ability to do many important things. To me it looks rather obvious Kurosawa is avoiding trapping himself. Doing so would limit him greatly and make editing are real pain.


    For the commoner, lets reflect back on the last frame in frame shot I mentioned. It serves one other important purpose, it showing us breaking away as the camera and the camera returning back to the all seeing eye of the audience. He using this as a backing out shot, he needs to get out of the rashomon, but can just jump out, he needs to do so without confusing us.

    Now after the frame by frame shot he can safely jump out, and by us remember the early shots,understanding where we are, he can this time do it faster. Backing out the entire rashomon gate, and allowing to commoner to walking in frame right. (dont think the commoner coming in from the right side to be part of the masculinity of framing, most times the right side is just the right side.)

    I see how Vili makes out the commoner to replace us, so that we are now the commoner.

    Again Kurosawa holding completely true to us being the camera, and we seeing commoner coming towards us, would be rather weak directing. Worse there would be some very weird composition, now with three people we must view, the commoner being a tiny dot in the distance, getting closer, closer, closer–boring

    What Kurosawa does is break away as a decide early so to properly serve the commoner establishment, and composition.

    The remaining of his movements and corresponding camera movements, is rather basic blocking (blocking be how the camera moves, as the characters move, to maintain composition.)

    The commoner walking about left and right, is just the commoner walking about left and right. He cant just stand still like a tree, again Kurosawa must not sacrifice good directing, just to hold true to some principles. When the three people under the rashomon begin to speak, if the camera just stood still to represent us, we would fall asleep from boredom, and miss proper close ups and reaction shots important to dialog directing.

    So we are not the camera again, until we get the shot of the axe.

    Also notice that how Kurosawa passes us off as the camera, then not as the camera, is much the same as he does us the camera and not the camera in the forest.

    I want to say, when I say Kurosawa does this and this for this reason, and Kurosawa didnt or did want to do this, is of course just my opinion. I obviously dont know what the hell he was really thinking and dont want to come off as though I do.

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    Vili Maunula

    Jeremy, reading your reply, I think that my previous post in this thread wasn’t quite as clear as it probably could have been, so let me have another go at expressing what I intended to communicate.

    Basically, there were three points in your original post that I attempted to respond to, although by concentrating solely on the opening scene:

    1) That, at the beginning of the film, we are a character under the Rashomon gate.

    2) That this character, together with the woodcutter and the priest, has already witnessed the events to be recounted.

    3) That we as the audience are more of the woodcutter than we are the character of the commoner.

    From these three, I think I would on some level agree with the first, while disagreeing with numbers 2 and 3.

    Regarding the first point, in my view your suggestion that at the beginning of the film we are something like a character under the Rashomon gate is a valid and a highly intriguing idea. A real eye-opener to me. I had never noticed it before, but indeed before the real dialogue kicks in all but one of the shots that come from inside of the Rashomon gate are shown from a single location. I shall call this “our point of view” inside of the Rashomon gate.

    My comments about the way in which so many of the opening sequence’s shots are external was more of a reference to the second point on my list than the first one. Clearly, the film would be rather strange (and potentially very boring) if we were only to be shown shots from “our point of view”. Shots external to the gate are therefore cinematically necessary, and their existence doesn’t need to invalidate the theory of “our point of view”. I furthermore totally agree with your interpretation of the shot that establishes the Rashomon gate, the point about the short cuts softening our approach to the gate, plus I also think that what you write about the “frame in a frame” shot is an excellent observation and that your reading of it as expressing the two characters’ alienation or humbling rather than ours is in fact more valid than what I wrote.

    Yet, also those external shots surely work to influence us as the viewing audience, and to me they in many ways overpower the shots coming from inside of the gate. While “our point of view” may be under the gate, I feel that at this point we are still at least equally observing the gate from outside. Similarly, the shots from inside of the gate (the close-ups of the woodcutter and the priest) never give me the feeling that I belong together with the other two. If anything, the way in which they face away from “our point of view” — they are neither looking at us nor towards the direction of our own gaze — acts in my view almost as a barrier separating us from them.

    Now, I admit that this is not entirely fair to your post, as your argument about us being in some ways together with the priest and the woodcutter (rather than the commoner) is based more on later scenes than the opening sequence. But let me just note that nothing in the introductory sequence, on which I am at the moment concentrating (I will come to discuss the rest of the movie in a later response to your original post), would to me indicate that we should feel one with the woodcutter and the priest. Yes, the source of “our point of view” is physically right next to them, but I still don’t see us as belonging with them.

    Now onto the third point, which I feel is pretty much the central point in what I was arguing for.

    As I wrote above, while “our point of view” can be seen as being located next to the woodcutter and the priest, I feel that until the commoner appears we are still at least equally present outside of the gate. It is only the commoner’s long run towards the gate that finally really brings also “us” to the gate. I again stress that the commoner’s is shown from behind, not from under the gate, and I don’t really agree that it would necessarily have been boring had Kurosawa decided to shoot this scene in a way that would show the commoner as running towards us, rather than away from us.

    Furtheremore, the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that it simply cannot be a coincidence that the first shot internal to the Rashomon that is not from “our point of view” would in fact happen to take the commoner to the spot of “our point of view”. And not only that, but by the end of the panning shot, the commoner is now also facing a direction that that matches our earlier point of view. To me, he has totally replaced us. From now on, it is he who has become “our point of view”.

    In my view, then, this whole introductory sequence that takes place between the opening titles and the point in which the real dialogue starts serves to bring the “outside” (in my view us, or the commoner) into the “inside” (where the story takes place). Furhermore, and lacking a better comparison, “our point of view” here seems a bit like one of those “interactive spots” in video games, locations that you need to reach for the story to move forward. Kurosawa first establishes this spot, and then brings the commoner there. Once he is there, the real story can begin.

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    Vili Maunula

    Having, I think, spent enough time with the opening sequence, I will now respond to the rest of Jeremy’s post.

    The point about the maculine/feminine sides of the screen is interesting. I have previously come across this in linguistics, art studies and web design, but never quite consciously applied it to films. Silly me.

    Let me just add though that the left=bad / right=good division is, being as Jeremy notes borne from the way we perceive things, much older than the 15th century (which of course may well be when it was first consciously noted in western art). There are for instance etymological clues suggesting that the division was already present in ancient Mesopotamian languages, just like in modern English (and many other languages) the word “right” also means “correct” (meanwhile, the English word “left” has by now lost its original meaning “weak, foolish”).

    Meanwhile, I don’t quite buy the argument that we are in the forest together with the woodcutter. Neither do I really accept Jeremy’s suggestion that we were present at the trials.

    I don’t really have that much with which to counter-argue the forest bit, except that to me the camera work, and especially so the long shots, seem to highlight the fact that the woodcutter is alone. I just don’t see how the camera work would imply that we are another character in the forest with him.

    About the courtyard scenes I have more to say.

    In my opinion, the direction from which the courtyard scenes are shot would be very strange indeed if it were to be assumed that we are a character present at the trials. While the camera level certainly matches that of a commoner, we can see that the other people present at the trials that we are aware of — the priest and the woodcutter — are further behind in the distance. Why wouldn’t we be there? You could say that it would be boring to observe the proceedings from behind the principal characters, but Kurosawa could then just as well have rearranged the whole setting if his goal was to suggest that we are an actual character who have already witnessed the proceedings.

    Furthermore, I very much doubt that we, as commoners, would be seated right next to the honourable judge. No, the direction from which the courtyard shots come from do not in my opinion represent the point of view of an actual witness — a commoner of all things — who was present at the trials.

    Instead, in my mind the position pretty much corresponds to what I would imagine someone who is being told about the trials to visualise the events from. By which I of course mean the commoner, who is listening to the narration.

    This is reinforced by the fact that absolutely nothing else is shown in the courtyard scenes (or for that matter anywhere else) than what we are being told about. We see no law enforcement, no other commoners, no scribes. Just the priest and the woodcutter who we knew were there, as well as the different participants in the actual events that we are told about.

    (This doesn’t explain though why we don’t see the judge. While we, of course, are in some sense also the judge, Jeremy is right in that there is a separate spot somewhere a bit higher to the left of us where the real judge is suggested to be sitting. So why doesn’t Kurosawa actually show the judge? For the sake of a cinematic effect?)

    I would then say that the reason why all the principals predominantly tell their story to us rather than the judge is that the story of them telling the story is being told to the commoner (whom I still consider to be “us”). The commoner simply imagines the situation in this way.

    The point about the different characters staring directly at us in order to appeal to us is very well spotted, though. I hadn’t noticed how and why the medium/husband looks at us the longest.

    Like Sanjuro, also I don’t ultimately see the voice of Kurosawa in the commoner. For me, he is too pessimistic for that. As Sanjuro mentioned, Kurosawa may have been bitter but he was also an optimist, or at least that’s what he has come across to me as.

    There is actually a related quote in the Tadao Sato article that is reprinted in the Rashomon book. It is taken from an interview with Chiyota Shimizu and concerns the baby scene. (page 168)

    Shimizu: I think that episode with the baby is wrong — it sounds like a lesson in Christian charity.

    Kurosawa: I have a word to say in its excuse. The spirit of our times is suspicious, and I am glad I have no part of it. I simply want people to be happy — though perhaps you may find a kind of escapism in my attitude.

    Shimizu: I understand what you mean, but it seems to me that in the film it is all too sudden.

    Kurosawa: It’s strange — when people talk in cynical manner, then everyone expresses approval; when someone speaks in an optimistic manner, however, the criticism is general. I question an attitude like that. However, maybe it is, as you say, all too sudden. Maybe I forced this ending on the film — but, on the other hand, I had no other way of ending it.

    It is a good point that you make about the woman being a prize of a kind. And the shot where the tree blocks the space between Tajomaru and the husband is an excellent pick. I hadn’t noticed that before.

    Your reading of the different truth values in each of the different stories also seems to me like a valid way of considering things. Interestingly enough, you pretty much arrive to a directly opposite conclusion from that presented by Richie, who argued that the story keeping most with the truth is that told by the wife. Richie actually argues that Tajomaru’s story is purposely inaccurately narrated by the woodcutter to cover his own tracks, which would then explain why the two stories match so well. I just wanted to point this out, but don’t want to suggest that I would necessarily run with Richie’s version — for one thing, it seems to make more assumptions than yours needs to (introduce Occam’s razor).

    As for the actual manner in which the husband died, also I had noticed the way in which the woodcutter’s and Tajomaru’s stories sync save for the different points of view. What has, however, always puzzled me is why the husband says that as he lay dying he felt how someone drew the knife from his body. Why would he lie about something like that? The only reason I can think of is that if he was really killed by a sword he had to make up a reason why he was (I assume) found without the dagger in his chest even if he had in his words committed a harakiri.

    The truth of the matter is, of course, that if they actually found the body they should easily be able to tell whether he was killed by a sword in a duel or a knife in a harakiri. Also, I am not sure if you can actually kill a man by throwing a sword at him, as is depicted by Tajomaru and the woodcutter. Maybe you can, even Japanese swords are quite heavy things. But it does seem like a strange action to take at the end of a duel (especially the type narrated by Tajomaru).

    Whatever the reason for the husband’s remark about the knife being pulled out of him, you are absolutely right in that the woodcutter is treated with the utmost consideration and care by Kurosawa. He is not made a villain despite of his assumed actions. Even when accusing of the commoner for being evil, I think that we feel for the woodcutter and see the inner turmoil in him.

    Finally, as I have already noted elsewhere, your points about the final scene in which the woodcutter walks away with the baby are very good indeed. It’s something that I had noticed but never been very conscious about, I think.

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    Jon Hooper

    Thanks to Jeremy and Vili for so much fascinating information about the significance of right and left in our cultural thinking. On reflection I have indeed come across it before in my reading (The Bible, Ursula McGuinn’s Left Hand of Darkness for example) but never really realised the extent of its influence and of course never thought of applying it to film.

    Why would he lie about something like that? The only reason I can think of is that if he was really killed by a sword he had to make up a reason why he was (I assume) found without the dagger in his chest even if he had in his words committed a harakiri.

    This is indeed the only other explanation for it; either he died by the sword and needed to explain the absence of the dagger, or indeed he died by the dagger and he is telling the truth, in other words the woodcutter (or at least someone) did pull the dagger out of him.

    As for the Kurosawa quote in Vili’s post, what an amazing quote. I don’t have the Rashomon book and have never come across it before. I love what he says, and I do think that he is right on the mark about the automatic approval that cynicism gets.

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    Jeremy

    I wont attempt to invalidate what feelings you get from the scenes, nor could I persuade how one feeling is more correct then another, and its not entirely right to try and do so.

    I have no choice but to stick with what I get from the directing, it is in the end all I have to stand on and the only area I feel safe in exploring with confidence, if although with great uncertainty.

    Where you do not get the feeling of togetherness (the close-up of the woodcutter and priest under the gate), I find it to be a rather intimate. We are closely together stuck in a sense under the gate due to the rain, with nothing but our thoughts. The mere proximity to the other two, their expression and composition, is to me significant validation of attempted intimacy. I can not see how the direction of their gaze has anything to do with our connection or lack there of. Their fixation on nothing is appropriate and foreshadowing of ours, as well as they have no reason to look at us, if done so we would lose any emotion the shot is trying to capture.

    I do follow how you see the commoner coming to the gate as “us” coming into the gate, its certainly valid, but that would undermine the entire opening sequence. Making the entire beginning in no way pushing forward the story, and deserving of the cutting room floor. For what reason do we see and hear the two under the gate, if we ourselves have yet to arrive. It could be said like you mention we are equally inside and outside the gate, in which have nothing to argue, but to say to me it makes no sense.

    I can as well see your logic in the how the commoner approaches the gate. I do however feel too much weight has be given to the fact he is shown from behind, rather then the front, as you think us under the gate would see. I’ll again nothing solid to argue with, but I have to hold strong to my thoughts viewing him from the front, coming towards us is very boring.

    I don’t mean to preach, talk down to you, or whatever else this may come off as. People tend to get mad when I do this stuff, but its just what I do.

    If you stress however, the commoner shown from behind. I must stress why it’s a must, regardless where we the audience sits. Granted there are ways around everything, but it still comes down to a technical reason of avoiding characters coming towards a camera when they are of great distance, not to mention its rather weak to begin with.

    Simply when a character of great distance comes towards the camera, the character first will have to appear small and grow larger as he comes closer(I‘ll get to this a bit later). What’s important to take into account, is that you can not manipulate the zoom on the camera to compensate, as it will change the perceived depth of the background, making the background appear to be pulling away from the character, rather then the character pulling away from the background. Also you can not dolly the camera to make the character a frame filling size the entire length the character is coming towards the camera, as he could appear to be walking in place, we also lead the audience blindly as to where he is going, defeating the purpose of the character even moving.

    So for a character to be running towards something we have to show what it is he is running towards, thus requiring we be placed behind him. Granted we would know he is running towards the rashomon as its been established to our whereabouts, but another technical aspect comes into play. Not taking into account possible lighting, and continuity troubles.

    AK

    However a running away shot works very well, easy to understand, and perhaps most importantly it give us perspective to the character‘s goal.

    Note when the commoner starts getting too small A.K. cuts to a view heading towards us for a bit of reestablishing, then back to the commoner’s back for a bit more of what we just saw. After that Kurosawa is free to move about, for some proper coverage of the commoner.

    As for the courtyard…..

    I’m not sure how Kurosawa could rearrange the set so that the camera, if so the audience would be next to the woodcutter and priest, being aware of them and able to see the principal characters.

    Sure in reality we a commoner would not sit next to a judge, but where else could the camera be placed. It appears Kurosawa wants to the principal characters dead center of frame, and for obvious reasons facing us. The position of the commoner and priest is pure composition and a means to fill empty spacing.

    I for one think having the woodcutter and priest, sitting largely motionless in the corner is nothing short of brilliant. I also find it rather hypnotizing to have a great actor like Shimura, do nothing but sit the entire time, this to me is some powerful prospective into the role the audience plays.

    Why no judge or anyone else, I don’t know. Perhaps it for the reason I like Kurosawa in the first place-simplicity. Its rather powerful, and I’m referring to the simplicity only a master can pull off, anyone can make things complicated, but very few can tell/show a story without gimmicks.

    It hard for me to explain about how I see Kurosawa, I wanted to write a article about his simplistic/brilliant directing in Rashomon. I just could not find the words, or the ability to explain to myself, so I gave up. I’ll just say I find Rashomon to be one of the greatest directed films ever, and the thing is I cant really point out anything really spectacular, I suppose that’s the really great thing.

    As I said I can agree with Sanjuro as to whom Kurosawa my be, to that I’m completely open.

    I respect Riche, but there is very little to which I think he really knows. This may sound egocentric, but it’s how I feel, not to mention he to sounds so sure and finalizing in his thoughts. (People say I do the same, so who I’m to talk?)

    Anyways.. I think Riche paints the woodcutter to be evil, so to fit a theme to Rashomon.

    I don’t get that at all, I believe the woodcutter never was lying, if he at any point is wrong, he is simply and naturally if still unwillingly putting his spin on the events. Everyone views the same things different, make unknowing assumptions and prejudice.

    If he doesn’t mention the dagger, for what reason should he, according to him he was killed with a sword. I don’t even think the woodcutter remembers about the dagger until the commoner bring its up. I see a realization that he is among the very people he can’t understand, after he remembers.

    Yeah, I don’t know about the whole mention by the husband of feeling the blade being pulled out. Your reason seems quite decent to me.

    I too doubt you can kill someone by throwing a sword, but the act of throwing it is really powerful, it shows the unwillingness to commit this action. Thrusting the swords, keeps it connected to you and wouldn’t appear it to be something you didn’t really want to do.

    I just like to sum this up, with a “I don’t know” to everything, and at any point you think I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, or pretending I do—then you and I agree on something. 😛

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    Vili Maunula

    Rather than agreeing about you not knowing what you are talking about, I’m much more content to simply agree that we disagree on certain fundamental points about how we experience Rashomon‘s camera work.

    Since we are not being graded, and since I very much doubt that there is a single answer to these questions anyway, I think that we can be quite happy with this. We have crossed swords — well beyond 20 times by now I’m sure — and I think that we have both come out with some fresh ideas. Which is pretty much why at least I am in this game. While I may not see or agree with the fundamental point of your interpretation at this very point, it will nevertheless certainly stay with me in the future whenever I watch the film. Maybe it will one day come to me, too.

    I must, however, make one point about your absolutely wonderful illustration about the commoner’s run (you captured Kurosawa pretty well there!). 😛 This is that you assume that that the camera is on the same level as the running commoner, which it obviously wouldn’t be, as there are steps to the Rashomon. So, it is higher up. Wouldn’t that affect (and I think partly solve) the framing issue?

    You may still be right that the shot would in that way have been, if not boring, at least more boring than the one we have in the film. But I still consider the shot that we actually do have in the film has a meaning to it.

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    Jeremy

    I forgot about the rashomon being higher then the commoner. I suppose you would tilt the camera down a bit, or more likely lower the camera height but then you may get to much of the ground in which case you would pull back the camera to make up for it and use a longer lens. Off hand I dont think much difference would be seen, but I’m sure it could be of some play. Its something I can’t quite imagine and would have to play around physically with it.

    I certainly enjoy reading about different views, as indeed this is the point of the whole project. I’ll just cant fathom the external shots of the commoner being anything of importance. I dont get the sense of disconnecting from the 2 under the gate at any point.

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    yippee

    Jeremy,

    I am digging on your visual analysis, and hope that you will be able to do more of it for each film discussed. The screen captures plus commentary, and the drawings show your filmic imagination, and illustrates the processes of your mind/eye sync. And, that is very, very interesting. Awesome, and thanks, and I hope you’ll address all the films.

    By the way, our deepest respect to Kazuo Miyagawa’s amazing camera work!

    http://www.cinematographers.nl/GreatDoPh/miyagawa.htm

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    Jon Hooper

    I second that, yippee; it would be a great pity if Jeremy couldn’t offer something similar for Drunken Angel, time permitting.

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    Jeremy

    Thanks for the kind comments, I do hope to attempt something for every film. I will attempt at something for Drunken Angel this weekend.

    I should say, most of the inspiration comes from the other comments and analysis everyone is offering. I’m only as good, as what everyone offers for consideration to agree or disagree with.

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    yippee

    Jeremy, what I have enjoyed about this analysis is seeing the images, looking closely at them, savoring them, and considering Kurosawa’s/Miyagawa’s choices and the possibilities of other choices. What a gift you have given this discussion board! It is a lot of work to think things through and to analyse, and to create the visual record of your thoughts, and it is very valuable!

    Like film school. I am amazed at your visual intelligence and perception, humbled by your skills. What a pleasure to find this discussion group and to actually not just banter, but to actually learn!

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    Jeremy

    Glad you brought up Miyagawa, the cinematographer tends to get overlook.

    Often the cinematographer plays a role equal to that of the director, and often the majority of composition, and blocking come entirely by them.

    During production often the most important people for a director is a stubborn cinematographer and some sort of all around person, much like Teruyo Nogami.

    Its certainly not fair to credit the camera work to Kurosawa and not mention Miyagawa. When a strong director and cinematographer get together often the entire completed movie, is the taking of the best parts from the two normally opposing ideas.

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    SirCrocodile

    WOW ! AMAZING , You guys are like the best Kurosawa Scholars

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