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.