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.
Goodwin also shows how Kurosawa uses editing techniques and objects as narrative devices: “the photograph of [Watanabe’s] wife at the center of the altar is the psychological frame through which Watanabe begins to look into his past in narrative flashback.” In the flashback in which Watanabe and his son are follow his dead wife’s hearse, Goodwin states that, “Metaphorically, the sequence places death as an immediate prospect within life and it suggests the narrative’s own patterns of approach and withdrawal from its protagonist’s death.” Both of these are examples of scenes and objects that offer a self-reflexive view of the film that acknowledges the techniques of filmmaking.
Goodwin’s book is different from the other works in the Bibliography, because it analyzes specific images and scenes in Ikiru, searching for allegorical meaning and self-reflexive commentary. The book definitely takes the position of Kurosawa as an auteur, suggesting that Kurosawa purposefully creates a continuity among the symbols and images in the film, in order give a deeper meaning to the film.