Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.A3 K789413 1982
Something like an Autobiography is a first-hand account of director Akira Kurosawa's thoughts concerning his breakthrough film, Rashomon. About some thirty years after he directed it, Kurosawa recalls almost every aspect of the film, from the production, to the underlying message, to the film techniques used. His intentions for the film are precisely what film scholars and analysts have hypothesized in their work: that the film is about the inability of man to tell the truth without embellishment and without tendencies towards self-preservation, and that the cinematography, lighting and editing all contribute to the mood of the film.
However, what is most interesting is that Kurosawa applies these perspectives to his own life as well. In his book's epilogue, he relates the story of a studio director who boasts about the success of Rashomon, without even referring to himself (Kurosawa) or the cinematographer. The human weakness he portrayed in the film does surface in real life. He then goes on to describe his autobiography and how it is completely possible that he left out negative facets of himself and doubts complete honesty in its presentation, once again showing tendencies to show oneself in the best possible way.
The way in which Kurosawa relates the theme of Rashomon to his own life leads the reader to think about the film's relation to their own life as well. Because the director self-analyzed himself in the book, the reader's drive to self-analyze is made stronger. In addition, the degree of variation to the stories in Rashomon is large enough that it may render the film a bit unrealistic. The points-of-view of the characters are just so different that attributing it to the relativity of perception may seem like a stretch. However, Kurosawa's autobiography brings the theme of the film down to earth and emphasizes the question proposed in the film: how do humans represent themselves?
In a way, this first-hand account of Rashomon validates the analysis done on the film. The fact that the views of those behind the camera and those who only see post-production coincide is a testament to the effectiveness and success of the intent and the techniques used in the film. One should take this into account in assessing Rashomon's impact on cinema.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995 .P6173 1985
Bordwell differentiates the narrative between the classical and modernist styles of writing and cinema in his chapter Objectivity, Subjectivity, Authority. In classical cinema, reality is coherent and consistent with individual identity. On the other hand, modernist cinema considers the mind's perceptions and reality as well, with individuals treating it as if it were "objective like the world before us." Hence, variations in character psychology are put on the spotlight. Also, modern cinema is characterized by what Bordwell calls a "boundary situation," where the turn of events makes the character aware of significant human issues. Through a flash of insight, the character realizes the meaning of human existence. According to Bordwell, this boundary situation is often present in modernist films and which enables the film to explain the mental states and emotions of the characters. Lastly, he also suggests that because modernist cinema holds truth from a relative view point, modernist narration focuses the attention of the audience on others aspects construction of the film, and moreover, calls for a higher level of interpretation.
Through his differentiation between classical and modernist cinema, in light of narrative style, Bordwell classifies Rashomon as a modernist film. He doesn't delve into Rashomon in particular, but he is right on point in describing the film style that Kurosawa employed. First of all, the film unravels from subjective points-of-view, four in particular with one of them repeated at the end. Rashomon does not reveal which storyline is true, but it is certainly possible that the characters think of their versions as objective. Secondly, as the story concludes, the audience sees the woodcutter in a boundary situation: the woodcutter realizes how much mankind can be self-centered and egoistic. In coming to this realization, he knows that it applies to himself as well: in feigning innocence, he does not tell the complete truth to the high court. This spurs him to reverse compensate and carry out a benevolent act by adopting an abandoned child. These events call for interpretation from the audience, and it is through this analysis that one is able to understand the character of the woodcutter in the film.
Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1998.3.K87 G66 1994
In his book, Goodwin carefully examines each of the five points-of-view presented in Rashomon. He suggests that the overarching motivation of the conflicting accounts reflects each character's "egoism," each tells their story in a manner that is most favorable to themselves. In particular, the woodcutter emphasizes his non-involvement in the crime, even though it is later implied that he is guilty of stealing the woman's dagger. The bandit projects an image of heroism and romanticism, and that "grand passion" was the motive for his actions. The wife's story emphasizes herself as the victim in the situation, with the bandit taking advantage of her and her samurai husband ultimately betraying her. Similar to the wife, the samurai perceives himself as the victim in the situation, reflected in his suicide as a desperate act of passion. Finally, the story goes back to the woodcutter who is led to re-tell his version of the events. This time, he discredits the other characters to maintain his own innocence and credibility.
Through Goodwin's picking through the details of Rashomon, the truth in the first-person narrative is examined. One could deduce that all of the characters in the film are lying. But, it is also reasonable to hypothesize that the intensity of the situation the characters were in could have forced a change in their perception of the situation. From the way the Kurosawa directs the film, each account is made ambiguous because each character is trying to project a positive image for his/herself, either deliberately or accidentally. The film, as a whole, then brings to mind questions beyond finding the crime's solution and the explicit credibility of the characters. The film instead raises higher-order questions examining the motives in which the events are told. Thus, Rashomon is not only to be looked at for the veracity in first-person narratives, but also for the driving forces influencing the characters behind those narratives.