The composition of Rashomon

Rashomon is an apparent mystery, an elliptical intent, which has fascinated audiences all over the world for more than 60 years now. Rashomon is Kurosawa in his full glory, and the cinematic intensity of the film is absolutely unmatched. For example, in the walk of the woodcutter through the jungle, the impressions of the passing trees overhead, the sun, the glint of the sunlight on the axe is highly celebrated.

During the scene when the bandit rapes the wife, the camera seeks the sky, the dazzling sunlight and the trees, to depict the struggle between the two. When the rape is consummated, just before the apparent flashback is complete, the sun comes out from behind a branch, shining directly into the camera lenses- one of the most beautiful and subtle metaphors ever committed on celluloid, indeed!

It is absolutely brilliant how Kurosawa uses single close-ups to emphasize the triangular nature of the story. A shot of the wife is followed by a shot of the husband, which is immediately followed by a shot of the bandit- and this process continues, going round and round as it were. The triangular composition is also often beautifully achieved by filling the frame with the wife, the bandit and the husband, but always in different compositional relationships with each other. This is a rare cinematic experience which was dominant during the silent-films era. The beautiful overtones, the hundreds of subtle metaphors, all composed together, make Rashomon one of greatest cinematic achievements!


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