Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.
The word ‘Rashomon’ has passed into the English language to signify a narrative told from various, unreliable viewpoints. In this case, the mystery relates to the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife in 11th century Japan, events which are relayed in wildly differing versions by those present: the bandit, the treacherous wife, a passing woodcutter and the spirit of the dead samurai.
This radically non-linear structure, with its profound implications about the fallibility of perspective, impressed judges at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. They awarded Akira Kurosawa’s film the Golden Lion, helping to encourage a broader interest in Japanese film in the west. With its snaking bolero-like score and poetic use of dappled forest light, Rashomon is a work of enduring ambiguity.