Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rashomon



This past weekend, I watched Rashomon, another great film by Akira Kurosawa. Once again, just like the Seven Samurai, this is an incredible film by Kurosawa that I highly recommend.

The film is about the rape of a samurai's wife and of the four very differing accounts of the crime described by four witnesses, including bizarrely, the murdered samurai through a medium (this scene was very strange but also very interesting).

The lighting, the acting, the writing, all classic Kurosawa. One of the greatest directors in history.

I did not understand the significance of the Rashomon temple to the movie however. I porbably am just missing something so someone maybe can explain the significance of the temple. I understand that the monk in the film belonged to the Rashomon temple and the temple was the setting of the characters who were describing there recollections of the crime. But I am not sure why the film is called Rashomon just based on that.

I highly recommend it.

10 comments:

  1. Great film, and very, very dark. Want to see something interesting? Here's what's left of Rashomon today:
    http://flickr.com/photos/phaedrusredux/328532690
    That's my father standing next to the marker stone where Rashomon once stood. It's in the middle of a childrens' playground just south of Kyoto station.

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  2. I did not realize Rashomon was an actual temple. What was the significance of the temple to the movie other then that was the monk's temple? Why was the movie called Rashomon?

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  3. I don't think Rashomon was ever a temple. Originally it was the gate to the southern end of the city, which fell into disrepair in the 12th century and was known to be the hangout of outlaws and other criminals. The film is based on a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa - presumably he chose the decaying gatehouse to reflect the collapse and decay of the characters and morals in the plot.

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  4. Ok. Thank you. That makes sense.

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  5. Chris, you are correct in saying that Rashomon was based on a short story by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, and that he chose the gate to frame the story in the dim light of moral decay. It is not well known however that plot for the film Rashomon is based on the short story "In a grove", in which seven unreliable narrators tell the story of the murder of a samurai and rape of his wife.

    Giles Murray has written an excellent translation of the story, accompanied by the original Japanese text and readings in Japanese in his book "Breaking into Japanese Literature".

    The story is a favorte of Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog".

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  6. Thank you for this information. It brings even more meaning to the movie.

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  7. Yeah, I can recall that Rashomon is indeed the old South Gate of Kyoto, as Chris pointed out. As the city grew, it grew well outside the gate, which now sits in the old quarter somewhere. There were temples to the left and right (Toji and Saiji maybe), but I can't recall for sure. THe idea was that in the early Japanese Buddhism, the temples at the gate would drive away evil spirits from the city.

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  8. I was aware of the gates protecting the city from the evil spirits. I almost certainly have read about Rashomon gate in some of the many Japanese history books I have read. I just did not remember and I assumed that Rashomon was a temple as it looked like one in the movie and because I assumed that the monk or priest lived there.

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  9. There was an interesting article in the magazine "Hiragana Times" about Rashomon. (Mostly Akira Kurosawa's movie.) But it also talked about the author and the underlying themes of the short stories.

    The most interesting point I picked out was how the author used each character's re-telling of the story. The speakers each give different versions of the same event. In each version the speaker's image and actions are protected and justified in their retelling. The speaker is giving an account that their 'Id' can survive with. So that as they look back on their actions they can feel justified and morally accept the consequences. And therefore how we all do the same as we look back on our own actions.

    Anyway, my two cents. (well actually my retelling of someone elses two cents.)

    The article gave me a new perspective on the whole of the story.

    Matthew

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  10. Thank you. I will look for that article.

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