Brief outline of the film:
The three characters, woodcutter, priest and commoner were hiding under the Rashomon city gate waiting until the rain stops, the woodcutter starts to explain about a murder that kept bothering his mind that happened between a Samurai, Samurai’s wife and the bandit
From the bandit’s testimony he claims that it was the wind’s fault that caused him to see the samurai’s wife’s face while they were walking down the mountain. He tricked the Samurai and tied him up to a tree. He calls the Samurai’s wife over and tries to assault her in front of the Samurai. The wife tries to escape by using a dagger but she still got raped. The wife was ashamed so she begged the bandit to duel with the Samurai and the Bandit won.
From the wife’s story, after the Bandit raped her, he walked away leaving her and the Samurai behind. She cut rope and begs the Samurai to forgive her but the Samurai only looked at her with a cold eye. Then she begged him to kill her but he continued to stare at her. She fainted and when she woke up, the Samurai was already dead with a dagger in his chest.
To look into the Samurai’s story, the court asked a witch to help out. After his wife got raped the bandit asked for her to live with him. The samurai’s wife asks for the bandit to kill her husband first. The bandit was disgusted by what the wife said and gave the samurai a choice on what to do about her. The wife ran away and the bandit couldn’t catch up. He came back and apologized to the Samurai. The samurai felt humiliated and killed himself with the dagger.
In the woodcutter’s story, the woodcutter claimed that the samurai was killed by a sword. After the rape the bandit asked the wife to marry him but wife freed the samurai and ask that he would kill the bandit. The samurai refused. The bandit also took back his words. The wife criticized both of them for not keeping his word and being a coward. The two then fought and the samurai died. The wife ran away and the bandit took the samurai’s sword.
After hearing about the four stories the three of them heard a baby crying and being abandoned in a basket. The commoner took the baby’s clothing. The priest tries to comfort the baby and the woodcutter decides to raise the baby.
Main symbols in the film:
Baby: The baby brought back some of the woodcutter’s human nature and chose to do what is good for him. After the commoner exposed what the woodcutter hid in his story, the priest couldn’t believe in the woodcutter or any human. But after the woodcutter explains that he’ll raise the baby, the priest chooses to put faith in humanity again.
Sun: The sun blinds the audience from knowing what the actual story is. From the four stories everyone is trying to change some parts of the story to make it look what’s best for them. Both the bandit and the wife claimed that the samurai was killed by the dagger but the woodcutter says that the samurai was by a sword. After the murder, no one saw the dagger at the scene and the only reason could be that the woodcutter took the dagger. That’s why he didn’t want to get involved in the case.
Main philosophical questions in the film:
Who is reliable and what is the truth of the story? The plot reflects on self serving and whether people should focus on the actual truth. These themes are still relevant today because it is challenging for someone to speak a truth if the truth affects their own profit. Similar to what happened in the film, when you go to court you’ll try to do the best to convince the judge that you are not guilty and to achieve that you’ll have to change up the story for your own good.
Structure of the film:
The narrative structure of Rashomon allows the audience to see multiple perspectives of the story through different characters. It leads us to the highlight of the themes that are told in the story.
Whose story is trustworthy:
The woodcutter’s story is more trustworthy because aside from the fact that he took the dagger, he has no relationship with any of the three people. It is most likely that he took the dagger to exchange for money and use it for his family. Some details in his story also match with what the three have said in their stories. Other than the dagger he has no reason to hide what he saw/heard.
What Kurosawa is trying to say about the gesture of the final scene:
When the priest hands over the baby to the woodcutter it shows that he still believes that there is good in man even though there are some flaws in them.
Consider the elements in the film, are there aspects to the story that might be better served on page:
In the film the stories are a bit mixed because it is the same story but some of the details are changed and it makes it confusing on what each of the characters have said in the testimony.