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Two men are waiting at an old Gatehouse for the rain torrent to be over. When a third one joins them, they share a disturbing story they just witnessed. It is about a rape and a death. At the trial, the involved parties (the maybe raped woman, the maybe murdered husband by way of a medium, and the maybe murderous thug) give witness – but their stories are all very different – and also the one man at the Gatehouse, a woodcutter who maybe found the body in the first place, has yet another story to tell.

What is the film about? About men’s perception of reality when it affects themselves, probably. About subjective reality. About the role of women, too. Various perceptions about honour play a role. Interesting to see this film today for a variety of reasons: it looks strangely older than it is. It is from 1950, but has a look that reminds of the silent era, which maybe makes it even more distubring that the film is not only not silent, but occassionally mad shrill laughter erupts, as if right out of the mad house. Sometimes that laughter is genuinely mad (the woman, when realising that her plot has worked out against her), or sometimes it means a crazy man is having the time of his life (“we crossed blades 23 times, noone has ever managed that before! Hahhhaaaahahaahaahaa!”). Or amused, when the bypasser listens to the story his two fellows tell him and is more amused by their desperation than touched by life’s drama.

Great acting, by the way, and not just by an over-the-top Mifune (a Japanaese Kinski, I would call him, I still have to find out whether he ever did a silent, reflective role), but by everybody, maybe most subtly by Takashi Shimura.

At the end of the film, the audience is left with four alternative realities and a baby, and that is as beautifully ambiguous an ending as it can get.

Why did I watch it? I got inspired by the filmspotting podcast, maybe finally I will manage to catch with those guys. They are frequently doing marathons on film-makers or themes (most recently “New Hollywood”, now “Kurosawa”) and all of them are worth checking out to update one’s own backlist.

And where is a very intelligent review? Of course, as always, here, which reviews the Criterion collection DVD edition, worth checking out.

For German-language, there is an episode on Rashomon by the brilliant “Jansens Kino” radio feature series (vol. 16).

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