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Playing at the film club: Biutiful (Inarritu, 2010)

Rashomon and philosophy

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    Ugetsu

    I came across this very interesting essay in Aeon Magazine on philosophy in film, with particular reference to Rashomon.

    Not only does the film flesh out the old notion that truth is man-made, but it dramatises and intensifies it in a way that philosophy alone is unable to. Through narrative, filming style, performance, mise-en-scène and such like, we get a sense of what the inability to grasp the real feels like: the conflicting stories are told in flashback, which raises the crucial issue of truth’s relationship to memory and forgetting, remembrance and misremembrance. The remembering and retelling is done during a relentless downpour: it is as though everything in this world – reality, truth, ourselves – has become liquid; the setting of remembering is a site of devastation, a temple in ruins – a reminder, if one was needed, that ‘God is dead’ or at least very silent. In the court, we never see the judges’ faces, only those of the people brought in to give their wildly conflicting testimonies: they are talking to us – we are the judges, we have to take everything in; then there are shots directly into the Sun, which creates a lingering sense of blindness and disorientation. All this only deepens the overwhelming impression that what we witness – an ending to our ability to tell the truth – is a tragedy of cosmic proportions.

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    Vili Maunula

    Thanks for sharing, Ugetsu! The article got me thinking — if made today, in our present world of “alternative facts” and “fake news”, I wonder if Rashomon would be considered a philosophical work, a satire, or a documentary.

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    yjmbobllns

    After reading this I also find it interesting that Kurosawa released Scandal so close to Rashomon, as that film handles the same themes of truth, fact and perception in a modern setting.

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    Ugetsu

    Thats a good point – Scandal is a film I enjoyed very much, but I’ve always wondered a little as to why AK picked a topic that seemed so narrow compared to his usual concerns. It smacked a little of a successful famous man griping about how tough it is to be a rich and successful man.

    But its fairly well established that he was a little frustrated at how many people didn’t really understand Rashomon, so perhaps he had in mind a more populist, literal approach to the theme.

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    Vili Maunula

    That’s a great point, yjmbobllns. I would definitely pair Scandal with Rashomon, and I think in general Rashomon is discussed in too much of a vacuum, when it really is a continuation of themes that Kurosawa had developed in his previous films, and would go on to discuss in ones that followed.

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