Rashomon (Rashōmon) is a Japanese movie that was first released into theaters in 1950. Famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, best known for his fantastical, epic historical films, merged together two stories from Ryūnosuke Akutagawa to create the full story he named Rashomon. Rashomon was the name of the first story by Akutagawa and provides the setting for the movie, while In A Grove provides the plot and flushes out the characters. Many Kurosawa fans and critics alike consider Rashomon to be one of his finest achievements, not only because of the beauty of the story and cinematography, but also because film historians consider it to be one of the first movies that truly introduced the western culture to Japanese films.
Rashomon is the story of four people and one event. Each of the four people has a different side of the story to tell, and the audience, as well as the jury in the movie, is supposed to try to figure out what the truth is beyond all the deceptions. The movie starts out with two men who just happened upon the scene. The Woodcutter finds a body and immediately runs to tell the police. The Priest says that he saw the Samurai, which is the body that the Woodcutter found, and the Woman, his wife, on the same day as the murder. After this things get a bit tangled.
The basis of the tale the they are trying to unweave is that of a bandit who rapes the Woman and is reputed to have murdered the Samurai. The bandit is named Tajōmaru. He says that he tricked the Samurai and was able to tie him up. He then says that he went to get the Samurai’s wife and was going to rape her in front of him. He says, though, that once he got her in front of her husband she submitted to his advances. He says that the woman begs him to duel with her husband because of her shame, and he says he agrees because he is an honorable man. He claims that he is the stronger man because he killed the Samurai.
The wife agrees that she was dragged in front of her husband, but swears that she was raped and did not submit. She says that after Tajōmaru left, she cut her husband loose and begged him to forgive her, but he refused. Feeling shame from being raped, she explains that she begged her husband to kill her. He does nothing and she recounts that she fainted. She says that when she woke up, her husband was lying on the ground, dead, with a dagger sticking out of his chest.
The dead Samurai even gets his chance to speak through a medium. He claims that after the rape, his wife begged Tajōmaru to kill her husband so that she would not have to live with her shame. He claims that the bandit grabbed his wife and made him decide if he should let the woman go or if he should kill her. The wife escapes and the Samurai claims that Tajōmaru cut him free. He then killed himself with his own dagger.
The stories circle around each other until the viewer is left wondering exactly what did happen. The ending, however, makes things much more clear.