In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Rashomon, we look at the key shots that help us understand the film.
- Takashi Shimura – Kikori, The Woodcutter
- Minoru Chiaki – Tabi Hōshi, The Priest
- Kichijiro Ueda – The Commoner
- Toshiro Mifune – Tajōmaru, The Bandit
- Machiko Kyō – The Wife
- Masayuki Mori – The Samurai
- Noriko Honma – Miko, The Medium
- Daisuke Katō – Houben, The Policeman
- Shinobu Hashimoto – Writer
- Akira Kurosawa – Writer and director
Key shots of Rashomon
The Rashomon Gate
One of the film’s most visually impactful shots is the opening shot of the Rashomon city gate, an important motif in the film. Presented from a low angle, the towering gate, shrouded in shadow, appears foreboding and oppressive. The gate, in a state of decay, stands as a visual metaphor for societal moral decay, mirroring the narrative’s exploration of subjective truth and deceit. The rain pouring down exacerbates the sense of despair and desolation, setting the tone for the bleak human interactions to follow. Aesthetically, the shot’s composition, with its deep focus, high contrast lighting, and atmospheric rain, offers a captivating blend of realism and symbolism.
The Woodcutter’s journey through the forest
The Woodcutter’s journey through the dense forest, another key motif in the movie, offers a striking visual representation of the narrative’s thematic complexity. The forest, tangled and mysterious, mirrors the intricate web of deceit and differing perspectives presented in the testimonies. As the Woodcutter walks through the forest, the sunlight pierces through the thick foliage in sharp, angular rays, creating dramatic shadows and adding a sense of unease. The aesthetics of this shot—the deep focus, contrasting shadows, and unique use of natural light—enhance the sense of disorientation and confusion.
The Medium’s dance
One of the most mesmerizing shots in the film is of the Medium, possessed by the spirit of the Samurai, performing her dance. The dramatic intensity of her movements, combined with the eerie soundtrack and close-ups of her transformed face, create an unsettling atmosphere that underlines the film’s exploration of the supernatural. The shot visually amplifies the subjective nature of truth as it is the only account not grounded in human perception but in the spiritual realm. This shot’s aesthetic appeal lies in its ability to evoke the supernatural and unknown through choreography, close-ups, and sound design.
The duel between the Samurai and the Bandit
A pivotal shot in the film is the climactic duel between the Samurai and the Bandit. This shot is significant because it is the only instance where the audience sees the same event from four different perspectives, reinforcing the theme of subjective truth. The erratic, desperate nature of the duel contradicts the Bandit’s version of a heroic battle, highlighting the disparity between perception and reality. Aesthetically, the use of tracking shots and high contrast lighting lends a dynamic quality to this shot, heightening the tension and uncertainty of the duel.
The sunlight emerging at the end
The final significant shot is of the sunlight breaking through the clouds as the Woodcutter leaves with the baby (read more about the meaning of the ending). The sudden burst of light after a prolonged period of rain symbolizes hope and redemption, contrasting the film’s prevailing atmosphere of despair. The shot visually conveys the film’s ultimate message: the possibility of altruism and moral integrity in a world fraught with deceit. The shot is visually stunning, with its dramatic change in lighting and the Rashomon gate silhouetted against the brightening sky, effectively underscoring the film’s shift from cynicism to optimism.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more shots you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Rashomon? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider adding them.