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BBFC RatingRashomon

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GenreCrime, Drama, Mystery
Director(s)Akira Kurosawa
Writer(s)Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto
Running Time1HR 28MINS
Extra InfoEnglish subtitles
SeasonMain Programme

Unreliable narration is taken to a new level in this landmark film, one of Akira Kurosawa’s finest, which introduced post-war Japanese cinema to international audiences.

A murder takes place in a forest. A samurai is killed. A court convenes and three testimonies are heard: a bandit, the samurai’s wife and the samurai himself, from beyond the grave. Each testimony differs in significant ways. These sequences are presented in flashback, told by a commoner to a woodcutter and priest as they shelter from a storm underneath Rashomon city gate. However, these three also have their own perspectives on what actually happened.

Adapting Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short stories Rashomon and In a Grove, Kurosawa and co-screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto (Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Hidden Fortress) make the most of the fragmented narrative structure to question the nature of truth and objectivity. Kazuo Miyagawa’s cinematography, particularly the use of ‘dappled’ light in the forest scenes, creates further ambiguity, while the heavy storm in the framing scenes add tension, particularly in the climactic confrontation between the three men.

The film won the Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival and an Honorary Oscar for the most outstanding foreign film. It remains one of the key works of Japanese cinema.

Content warning: sexual violence references, suicide, moderate threat, language. See the BBFC website for more information. 

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