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Disasters in Japan: Rashomon, 1950

War, earthquake, winds, fire, famine, the plague. Year after year it’s been nothing but disasters.

The actions in Akira Kurosawa’s movie Rashomon played out as a series of stories – flashbacks and reminiscences – told to a naive, faithful Buddhist monk. Each of the four major stories related decidedly different versions of the same basic events. The contradictions between them revealed even more about the nature of character and personality than they did about supposedly black and white matters of truth or justice.

These four frames showed the young monk overwhelmed by the suffering in the tale of the least of the major characters, a humble woodcutter. Despite the bravado, vanity or pride of the other higher-born characters however, no one in this film has had it easy – – or necessarily made the best of their lot in life. Indeed the monk himself, representing the viewers as witnesses to the tales, is included among in the list of flawed and believable characters.

I’m not sure why “this isn’t happiness” picked these up today. Probably simply the surface appearance: taken out of context these represented an arresting commentary on the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and nuclear disaster for the blogger who posted them.

from Something Like an Autobiography, Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa:

“…three assistant directors … came to see me at the inn where I was staying. I wondered what the problem could be. It turned out that they found the script baffling and wanted me to explain it to them. … For their persistence I gave them this simple explanation:

Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings–the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. It even shows this sinful need for flattering falsehood going beyond the grave—even the character who dies cannot give up his lies when he speaks to the living through a medium. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it is the most difficult to redeem. This film is like a strange picture scroll that is unrolled and displayed by the ego. You say that you can’t understand this script at all, but that is because the human heart itself is impossible to understand. If you focus on the impossibility of truly understanding human psychology and read the script one more time, I think you will grasp the point of it.

From Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa: http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/196-akira-kurosawa-on-rashomon

Movie page with trailer at Criterion Films: http://www.criterion.com/films/307-rashomon

via this isn’t happiness, Rashomon.

via Aphelis, Disasters in Japan: Rashomon, 1950.

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