Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon Effect & The Films It Inspired

By Sayantan Mondal. Posted on May 06, 2015

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon was a remarkable achievement in filmmaking. When it released, not only was it a box office success but was critically acclaimed for its innovative approach. The film created a new narrative style in filmmaking which later inspired many filmmakers. Rashomon Effect is a term that has moved beyond movies into pop culture. It is a scenario when different people have contradictory interpretations of the same event.

There are several movies that have used the Rashomon effect to great advantage. Let's have a look at some of the most popular instances of Rashomon effect in films across time and geography.

Gangland Samurai And Rashomon Effect In Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Jim Jarmusch’s philosophy is to copy, borrow, get inspired and possibly steal from every known source and give it his own twist. Ghost Dog has several references and allusions to Japanese samurai movies as well as Jean Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai. It also includes the Rashomon effect in this story where the protagonist played by Forest Whittaker and another character called Louie tell the audience their stories from their point of view. Not only this, Ghost Dog also includes a scene where the character of Forest Whittaker gives a copy of Rashomon (the source of Kurosawa’s movie) to a little girl. The entire movie is an extended tribute to different movies and is yet original and presents itself through a different style of narration.

Rashomon Effect As A Form Of Storytelling In Hero

Zhang Yimou’s Hero was nominated at the 2003 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and deservedly so. A fantastic cast, lush, vivid and exhilarating cinematography, top notch performances by the actors and a wonderful tale that combines the best of everything. But what made it a more florid tale was the inclusion of the Rashomon technique that gave the movie a solid edge and the storytelling flourished instead of following the beaten track of many other martial arts movie.

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A warrior tells the emperor how he managed to kill all the assassins who were out for his life. By utilising the Rashomon technique it becomes a battle of wits between the emperor and the warrior as the truth is finally revealed. In many ways, though the pace is a bit slow, but it has some wonderfully choreographed action scenes, it moves ahead like a thriller all thanks to Zhang Yimou’s excellent handling of the narrative flow and of course the deft use of the Rashomon technique.

Rashomon As a Marker of Violence in Virumaandi

Virumaandi’s utilizes the Rashomon technique with two prisoners (played by Kamal Hassan and Pashupathy) discussing the gravity of their crimes and why they are in prison. The narrative presents two points of views forming the beginning & middle leading upto the climax to their incarceration. Virumaandi is a great example of the use of Rashomon technique and is often cited as a good case study to understand the Rashomon effect.

Rashomon Effect And Its Use In The Animated Movie Hoodwinked    

It's very rare for an animated movie to use the Rashomon technique because more often than not, it is associated with something serious, while Hoodwinked is but a comedy of sorts inspired by the tale of red riding hood. Surprisingly the movie that was mainly targeted towards kids, became a box office success while simultaneously garnering critical acclaim.

Kurosawa And Rashomon Effect In Hollywood Through Vantage Point

Vantage Point is a political thriller that focused on an assassination and captured it from multiple angles. Some of you may realize that it was partially inspired by the attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life and what it showed was different characters and their lives entwined because of this incident. Though some critics are of the opinion that Vantage Point couldn’t really execute the narration and failed to assimilate the Rashomon technique properly, it was still an interesting effort if only because it looked at the same incident from 6 different point of views.

Fusing Kannada Chutzpah With Rashomon Effect In Ulidavaru Kandante

Ulidavaru Kandante is a rare Indian movie that got the Rashomon effect correct. Rakshit Shetty, the director of this movie, managed to mix Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction inspired  style with Kurosawa’s technique. Though the entire narrative looks very simple, once you reach a certain point in the movie you will realize how smartly the narrative has incorporated the idea of Rashomon effect.

What other films can you think of, that employ the Rashomon effect? The technique has been used innumerable times in films, so w are sure you can come up with references in all sorts of films.


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