Call#: Van Pelt Library PN212 .C47 1990
In the chapter A New Kind of Film Adaptation, Chatman counters the critique often aimed at film adaptations based on literature: that film adaptations take away from the audience's use of imagination by displaying everything on screen. Noted scholar Wolfgang Iser is quoted by Chatman saying that, "The point here is that the reader is able to visualize the hero virtually for himself. The moment these possibilities are narrowed down to one complete and immutable picture, the imagination is put out of action." Chatman argues that the imagination is not excluded by the visual medium of film and much can be left for the audience to imagine. In particular, dialogue and narration do not always present what the characters are thinking or feeling in film. For example, body language and expression often go unexplained by direct conversation or even diegetic context in the film.
Chatman mentions Rashomon as an excellent adaptation that invokes the audience's imagination. Although Kurosawa directly translates the dialogue and storyline from which the film is based onto the screen, the film still leaves it to the audience's imagination to try and resolve incongruities and figure out what actually happened. Each of the stories in Rashomon represents what the characters think and believe, however, imagination is not limited by this straightforward presentation of the characters' perspective. In fact, it turns out that these presentations are not straightforward after all. Although everything is presented to the audience visually, there is room to play with and entice the imagination of the audience.
In many ways, the term he uses, imagination, may be inadequate. What he is referring to is the workings of the human mind in its entirety. Rashomon inspires thoughts that do not fall under the scope of imagination, namely critical-thinking, rationalism and emotion. These thought processes make the audience active participants in the film.
As part of an emerging literature between law and film, Kamir talks about the influence of legal films on the understanding of law, society and culture. Apart from portraying legal situations, he argues that films can unconsciously evoke the audience to engage in its own judging process. Then, films play an active role in using its plot, characters and imagery to create a general representation of legal and social issues. Kamir points out that the audience comprises society's "jurors, judges and reasonable people," and that legal films have real-world impact.
Kamir describes Rashomon as one the classic and most powerful courtroom films ever made. The manner in which the story unfolds is an influential and complex insight not only on human condition but on the nature of legal processes in a socio-cultural context as well. It alerts the audience to the possibility that truth is completely subjective, and legal processes evaluate subjective rather than objective truths against each other. He refers to the film as a participant in society's perception of legal proceedings, and to some extent, in society's self-formation.
That Rashomon may have an impact more than just on the cinema world is an interesting idea to explore. First of all, it speaks of the film's powerful delivery and effectiveness. Second, because it deals with issues that are extremely relevant to society, it sparks thought that is not limited to the theoretical or philosophical aspects of human condition. Instead, its impact extends to the practical and socially significant aspects as well. The seemingly simple story of the death of a samurai, made complex by the different versions it is told by goes far beyond the confines of the film's single setting to real institutions such as the courtroom.