Ever caught yourself in a situation where an incident has occurred but the explanation derived for the cause of the incident is contradictory for each person? Well, you probably haven’t been in a situation like that; neither have I. But this technique is a very popular one used in film-making in order to thicken the plot and increase the suspense. The effect caused by this technique is known as the Rashomon Effect. Still confused?
In 1950, Akira Kurosawa; a famous Japanese director just starting off in the industry; weaved his most critically acclaimed film- Rashomon. The film is unconventional and stringent in design and these factors helped it reach cloud 9 in terms of international success and approval of the film. But what was so special about this film that made it an immediate success?
Well, it was the plot. Akira had used the elements of perception, subjectivity, and recollection concerning one thing, but are extremely contradictory when talked about by different people. So basically, the effect created is that many people give a contradicting interpretation of the same event; which boggles the minds of the viewers as they are constantly trying to figure out which is the right one! Genius method to keep one glued to the storyline of a film!
Inspired by Rashomon, many movies around the world have garnered critical acclaim the same way Rashomon did; for the suspense of it. Here are 7 such movies.
#1 PREDESTINATION (2014)
This movie is all about how time is not a fixed construct. The Ethan Hawke starer is a sci-fi thriller that features time as a paradox for the main character who is a time traveler. It’s like answering a question wrong for which the right answer was predestined just because you didn’t know the steps to get to the right answer! And what causes such a melodic imbalance of time in the movie? The Rashomon Effect. Different events and crimes perceived and told from different perspectives; over the course of time. This Steven Spielberg film is perhaps the most complex in technique when it comes to the usage of the Rashomon Effect. Want several mind-wow moments? Watch it!
#2 COURAGE UNDER FIRE (1996)
In this war film, Denzel Washington plays an ex-Lieutenant named Serling who is asked his opinion and views on whether Captain Karen Emma Walden; played by Meg Ryan; should be the first woman to receive a (posthumous) Medal of Honor for her heroism and quick thinking that save one of two teams which she wasn’t a part of. However, while interviewing the team, Serling finds that the accounts and the testimonies of events given by different members of the “safe team”, to be inconsistent and contradictory; which triggers counter reactions. Hello hello; Rashomon Effect.
#3 HOODWINKED! (2005)
This computer animated family comedy is a very clever way of twisting a famous fable that all of us grew up reading: The Red Riding Hood. Sure we all know how it goes; Red goes to her Grandma’s place to visit her and instead, her encounter with the wolf occurs. But what if all this is happening and suddenly the police barge into grandma’s house? Well, it’s obvious that Red, Grandma, and the Wolf are taken into custody for questioning. Quite the twist huh. The Rashomon effect comes into play when the three are questioned and they give three different contradictory accounts of what had happened and who was at fault. Well, that should be fun and unique to watch! Give it a go!
#4 GONE GIRL (2014)
I bet most of you who have watched the film would be able to evaluate as to how the Rashomon effect played a role in creating suspense. For those of you who haven’t watched it, this psychological thriller starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike is the story of a woman who goes missing and how she and her husband’s life was prior to the incident. The account of her their life is told in two different perspectives; one is the woman’s own perspective, as written in her diary, and the other is her husband’s perspective. Extreme suspense guaranteed for all. What a platter! Do watch!
#5 GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI (1999)
Ghost Dog is a crime action film which features two primary characters; Louie, a mobster leader and Ghost Dog, his retainer; and their varying accounts of how they first met face-to-face while fighting an opposing mafia gang. The film also cleverly features the book that contains the original story of “Rashomon”; thereby laying the grounds for the effect to take the full course. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
#6 THE WOMAN IN QUESTION (1950)
Who knew crazy ideas formulated around a simple but effective technique could go to the extent of amusing independent film-makers in the ‘50s? Well, no surprise. “The woman in question” is a mystery drama film that revolves around witness accounts of 5 different people about the murder of a woman they supposedly witnessed. A complete Rashomon effect is not achieved but the film tries to depict how the narration given by one person can entirely window-dress facts, revealed only by another’s narration.
#7 CITIZEN KANE (1941)
Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane is perhaps the best movie ever made in terms of cinematography, plot, style, theme, screenplay and overall suspense created! It hovers on the top of the “Top 100 movies ever made” list. And why shouldn’t it! Citizen Kane is the story of the Multimillionaire newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane who dies alone in his extravagant mansion, his last word being: “Rosebud”. In an attempt to figure out the meaning of this word, a reporter tracks down the people who worked and lived with Kane. They tell their stories in a series of flashbacks that reveal much about Kane’s life but not enough to unlock the riddle of his dying breath. The central theme of Citizen Kane is exploring a person’s life after his death. It talks about a person and what does audience thinks of that person. A true use of Rashomon. Trust me, you can watch it innumerable times but you’ll be tempted to watch it again and again just to figure out what’s going on!
Rashomon Effect has also been used in Indian films like Yuva (Hindi), Dhrishyam (Malayalam, Tamil & Hindi), Talvar (Hindi) etc.
Watch them and try to figure out how the Rashomon Effect has been used in these films and what impact it has on the overall storyline and in creating super intense suspense!
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