Friday, February 1, 2019

The Philosophy of Justice in Rashomon (1950)

The Philosophy of Justice in Rashomon (1950)_BD Films Info/Abstract: This is a critical film review or textual analysis of the film ‘Rashomon’ (1950) directed by Akira Kurosawa. This review is about the inner psychic drivers of human nature especially in the nature of the human acted in ‘Rashomon’. From the point of view, the review will lead and deconstruct the most primitive characteristics of the characters, philosophy of justice in the movie and the psychoanalysis according the similar theoretical keywords. The movie deals with reconstructive nature of human memory. It is a philosophical film.      Keywords:  Desire. Id, Ego, Super ego, Scopophilia, Langue and parole, Knowledge and Power, Ideology     The woodcutter           : I don’t understand … I just don’t understand.  Tajomaru                     : I know sooner or later you’ll have my neck, so I’m not                                         going to hide anything. It was this Tajomaru who killed                                           that man.  The priest                    : I have seen so many men getting killed like insects, but                                        even I have never heard a story as horrible as this.  The woman                  : I saw my dagger in my dead husband’s chest.  The woman                 : Please, kill him. while he is alive I cannot go with you.        The woodcutter           : There was no dagger… He was killed by a sword.     The commoner            : You may have fooled the court, but not me. So, what did                                        you do with the dagger? The valuable one with the pearl                                        inlay.     ‘Rashomon’ is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story for a man’s murder and the rape of his wife.  The real gift of ‘Rashomon’ is in its emotions and visuals. Dialogue could not carry the weight and actors used their faces, eyes and gestures to express emotion.  The genius of ‘Rashomon’ is that all of the flashbacks are both true and false. True in that they present an accurate portrait of what each witness thinks happened. False because as Kurosawa observes in his autobiography, ‘Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing.’  Shortly before filming was to begin on ‘Rashomon’, Akira Kurosawa’s three assistant directors came to see him. They were unhappy. They did not understand the story. He told them, ‘If you read it diligently, you should be able to understand it because it was written with the intention of being comprehensive.’ They would not leave. ‘We believe we have read it carefully and we still don’t understand it at all. The film’s engine is our faith that we will get to the bottom of things. Even though the woodcutter tells us at the outset he does not understand, and if an eyewitness who has heard the testimony of the other three participants, does not understand why should we expect to?   From Previous Literature:  The main philosophical matter of the film ‘Rashomon’ is the investigation that who has killed the samurai. According to the filmic visuals, the three participants have committed themselves as killers. But there is no actual clue that who the definite person has killed the man.  The bandit Tajomaru has admitted that he has killed that man. The woman admitted herself that for her the samurai or her husband has been killed. On the other hand the samurai admitted that he has killed himself. They tell the same event in their own contradictory ways. So, it is very difficult to understand the reality that who has killed that man. The main issues related to the investigation are the man stabbed, the rope cut, the woman fled, the horse and weapons stolen by the bandit and the dagger missing. In the court the bandit, the woman, the dead man through a medium, the woodcutter and the priest all have given witness. The woodcutter and the priest have heard all the witnesses. But they don’t understand it at all. Especially the priest has lost his faith in the human soul that he has never heard such a horrible story in the past. How can man tell such kind of lie?     Theoretical Framework:  The study employs textual analysis of the film ‘Rashomon’ to understand the philosophy of justice in the movie where Freudian model of psyche, especially id, ego, super ego and Michel Foucault’ knowledge and power, Ferdinand de Saussure’s structuralism especially langue and parole, Laura Mulvey’s feminist psychoanalysis especially Scopophilia and Louis Althuser’s Ideology are used mainly.  Desire leading crime:  Sigmund Freud first divides the psyche into two parts; the unconscious and the conscious. Here the conscious is the part that relates to the external world, while the unconscious is the site of instinctual drives. Sigmund Freud (1973) argues that the most important instinctual drives are sexual. These are redirected in unconscious process of sublimation. Other three parts are id, ego and super ego. Id is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle (Freud, 1973b:106). The id wants desires satisfied regardless of the claims of culture. We find the similarity of the instinctual drives in the bandit Tajomaru.     Tajomaru                       : I thought I saw a goddess.  Here all the desires are hidden. After the wind blowing, he saw the samurai’s wife. Then this desire leads him to commit crime. As id is pleasure principle desire is also pleasure principle. And ego or super ego is reality principle that resemble among the characters in the scenes.  Tajomaru                      : Stop it, Don’t bully her. Women are weak by nature.  The Woman                  : It’s you who are weak. If you are my husband, why don’t                                         you kill this man?  Laura Mulvey (1975) explains about scopophilia and male gaze. Scopophilia is sexual. In Rashomon the woman is the object of male (Tajomaru) desire. She more explains that in a world structured by ‘sexual imbalance’ the pleasure of the gaze has been separated into two distinct positions; men look and women exhibit ‘to-be-looked-at-ness. Women are therefore crucial to the pleasure of the male gaze.     Tajomaru           :  Your husband has taken sick.                             : I beg you to be my wife. The notorious bandit Tajomaru is                              begging you on his hands and knees.     Langue-Parole and Justice-Performance:  Rashomon is the best example of a philosophical film. The philosophy of justice is the main investigative matter of this film. But if we deconstruct it with the theory of structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure, it will easy to us to divide the whole film into two parts according to the structuralism theory.  Ferdinand de Saussure makes a distinction that has proved essential to the development of structuralism. This is the division of language into Langue and Parole. Langue refers to the system of language, the rules and conventions that organize it. Parole refers to the individual utterance, the individual use of language. The first is structure and the second is performance. In the film, we will imagine the court or the justice is structure or rules or system and the characters paying their role in the zone; it is their performance. The rules have been created for the performers. When the court took the witness from the characters it is its structure on the contrary the characters play role, it is their performance.     Tajomaru                      : I know sooner or later you’ll have my neck,                                         So I am not going to hide anything.                                       : It is this Tajomaru who killed that man.     Knowledge and Power:   Michel Foucault explains that knowledge is always a weapon of power; It is in discourse that power and knowledge are joined together (Foucault, 2009:318). He also explains that power produces knowledge. Power and knowledge directly imply one another (1979:27). Power produces reality, through discourses it produces the ‘truths’ (Foucault, 2002a:131). In Rashomon Akira Kurosawa has created several scenes that resemble with the theory of Michel Foucault. In Rashomon Tajomaru does discourse in such a way that if it is real and the samurai follow him for the power of the reality or truth. Actually the samurai took bandit’s discourse as reality. And the bandit in such a way describes the discourse that is his power.  Tajomaru                   : There are some ruins over there. When I dug up the mound,                                      I found a heap of swords and mirrors. I buried them in a                                      grove behind the mountain so no one else would find them.                                     If you are interested, I’ll sell them to you cheap.                                                              : Your husband has taken sick.     Both of the above scenes are knowledge and reality based. At first the samurai thinks may be there are many swords and mirrors in the grove. And the woman also thinks similarly that his husband is really sick. The knowledge Tajomaru has is his power and he produces reality with the power. Foucault (2009) more points out that where there is power there is resistance. There are resemblances of the theory with the senses of the Rashomon film.     The Woman                  : What I saw in them was neither anger nor sorrow, but a                                          cold light, a look of loathing.  The Woman                 : It’s you who are weak. If you are my husband, why don’t                                          you kill this man?                                       : Just remember; A woman loves a man who loves                                         passionately.  After that dialogue the last fight was started between the bandit and the samurai.              A Philosophical representation:  ‘Rashomon’ is the philosophical representation using ideology. Whole film has several flashbacks that are the divisions of the representation system. It is also an ideology. Louis Althusser points out, ideology is a system of representation (images, myths, ideas or concepts). Ideology is unconscious. (1969:23). The film is a representation of philosophical ideology. The whole film is started with the dialogue of the woodcutter that ‘I don’t understand and after that the priest tells that this time, I may finally lose my faith in the human soul. But the last dialogue of the priest was I think I can keep my faith in human. There are huge concepts or ideology or images or ideas that make the whole film as a philosophical representation.       The Philosophy of Justice:  The whole film is about the philosophy of justice of a murder and a rape case. In the court everyone gives their own opinion and witness in a contradictory way. And their ideas or thinks don’t resemble with others. The four participants give their witness. The woodcutter also gives opinion but he did not want to involve with the case. One reason can be his taking the missing dagger that is valuable with the pearl inlay. But his witness is something neutral because he tells that there was no dagger and the samurai was killed by a sword So that the dagger can be hidden. And no one can ask about this. But at the eleventh hour of the film, we can know the real position of the dagger.     The woodcutter             : Everyone is selfish and dishonest. The bandit, the woman                                          and you(the commoner).  The commoner              : you may have fooled the court, but not me.                                        : So what did you do with the dagger?                                        : The valuable one with the pearl inlay.  But this is not a clue to investigate the whole event or to identify that who is the murderer because everyone is giving their own witness and these are different from other’s witness and the story is also contradictory. But the visuals and the performances of the characters their emotions are very important to investigate the philosophy of the film. In the jungle, when the woodcutter was walking towards the mountains three days ago, this scene is something durable. But why? The jungle is silent and another point is that the jungle is very big. A vast jungle and it is silent. So, it provides a message that when the samurai walking with his wife ridding on horse, he looks the bandit and thinks that this jangle would be horrible as it silent all around.  The whole film is made with visual complexities played by the characters in a court. The performer’s contradictory opinion is the main philosophy of the movie. Though for the first time in this movie flashback is used several times. And the state is differentiated with sunny and rainy days. At the present time the film is started with rainy day but past moments are started with sunny days. The audiences can find the present and past easily. It is also important in the movie.     Conclusion:  Desire leads Tajomaru to involve with the murder and the rape case. Before he did not know about it as it is instinctual drive that does in unconscious process. But the main philosophical investigation is why the woman and the samurai admitted themselves as guilty. The woodcutter’s witness something neutral he also tells lie. So investigation philosophy of the film is very different alike the woodcutter told I don’t understand. But he is a eye witness. If he cannot understand why should we expect to?  Akira Kurosawa has uplifted the difference of human nature in this film. At first I have described about this. Kurosawa told that ‘Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing.’  References  1.                 The Guardian (2010)  link https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jun/17/rashomon-kurosawa-film-review  2.                 https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jun/20/rashomon-film-review  3.                 Washington post (2009) link http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/12/AR2009111207944.html?noredirect=on  4.                 https://www.empireonline.com/movies/rashomon/review  5.                 https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-rashomon-1950  6.                 http://www.reelviews.net/reelviews/rashomon  7.                 https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/rashomon  8.                 https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/rashomon  9.                 https://www.gradesaver.com/rashomon-film/study-guide/summary  10.            http://www.thecityreview.com/rashomon.html  11.            http://www.filmreference.com/Films-Pi-Ra/Rashomon.html  12.            https://www.timeout.com/london/film/rashomon  13.           http://archive.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2010/04/23/rashomon_remains_gorgeously_masterful/  14.        http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/movies/20091120_Kurosawa_s_classic_mystery_retold_from_four_perspectives.html
Machiko Kyō in Rashomon (1950) Japanese Film 



The Philosophy of Justice in Rashomon (1950)
Md. Robiul Islam

Abstract: This is a critical film review or textual analysis of the film ‘Rashomon’ (1950) directed by Akira Kurosawa. This review is about the inner psychic drivers of human nature especially in the nature of the human acted in ‘Rashomon’. From the point of view, the review will lead and deconstruct the most primitive characteristics of the characters, philosophy of justice in the movie and the psychoanalysis according the similar theoretical keywords. The movie deals with reconstructive nature of human memory. It is a philosophical film. 

Keywords:  Desire. Id, Ego, Super ego, Scopophilia, Langue and parole, Knowledge and Power, Ideology

The woodcutter           : I don’t understand … I just don’t understand.
Tajomaru                     : I know sooner or later you’ll have my neck, so I’m not
                                       going to hide anything. It was this Tajomaru who killed  
                                       that man.
The priest                    : I have seen so many men getting killed like insects, but
                                      even I have never heard a story as horrible as this.
The woman                  : I saw my dagger in my dead husband’s chest.
The woman                 : Please, kill him. while he is alive I cannot go with you.
    
The woodcutter           : There was no dagger… He was killed by a sword.

The commoner            : You may have fooled the court, but not me. So, what did
                                      you do with the dagger? The valuable one with the pearl
                                      inlay.

‘Rashomon’ is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story for a man’s murder and the rape of his wife.
The real gift of ‘Rashomon’ is in its emotions and visuals. Dialogue could not carry the weight and actors used their faces, eyes and gestures to express emotion.
The genius of ‘Rashomon’ is that all of the flashbacks are both true and false. True in that they present an accurate portrait of what each witness thinks happened. False because as Kurosawa observes in his autobiography, ‘Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing.’
Shortly before filming was to begin on ‘Rashomon’, Akira Kurosawa’s three assistant directors came to see him. They were unhappy. They did not understand the story. He told them, ‘If you read it diligently, you should be able to understand it because it was written with the intention of being comprehensive.’ They would not leave. ‘We believe we have read it carefully and we still don’t understand it at all. The film’s engine is our faith that we will get to the bottom of things. Even though the woodcutter tells us at the outset he does not understand, and if an eyewitness who has heard the testimony of the other three participants, does not understand why should we expect to?
 From Previous Literature:
The main philosophical matter of the film ‘Rashomon’ is the investigation that who has killed the samurai. According to the filmic visuals, the three participants have committed themselves as killers. But there is no actual clue that who the definite person has killed the man.  The bandit Tajomaru has admitted that he has killed that man. The woman admitted herself that for her the samurai or her husband has been killed. On the other hand the samurai admitted that he has killed himself. They tell the same event in their own contradictory ways. So, it is very difficult to understand the reality that who has killed that man. The main issues related to the investigation are the man stabbed, the rope cut, the woman fled, the horse and weapons stolen by the bandit and the dagger missing. In the court the bandit, the woman, the dead man through a medium, the woodcutter and the priest all have given witness. The woodcutter and the priest have heard all the witnesses. But they don’t understand it at all. Especially the priest has lost his faith in the human soul that he has never heard such a horrible story in the past. How can man tell such kind of lie?

Theoretical Framework:
The study employs textual analysis of the film ‘Rashomon’ to understand the philosophy of justice in the movie where Freudian model of psyche, especially id, ego, super ego and Michel Foucault’ knowledge and power, Ferdinand de Saussure’s structuralism especially langue and parole, Laura Mulvey’s feminist psychoanalysis especially Scopophilia and Louis Althuser’s Ideology are used mainly.
Desire leading crime:
Sigmund Freud first divides the psyche into two parts; the unconscious and the conscious. Here the conscious is the part that relates to the external world, while the unconscious is the site of instinctual drives. Sigmund Freud (1973) argues that the most important instinctual drives are sexual. These are redirected in unconscious process of sublimation. Other three parts are id, ego and super ego. Id is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle (Freud, 1973b:106). The id wants desires satisfied regardless of the claims of culture. We find the similarity of the instinctual drives in the bandit Tajomaru.

Tajomaru                       : I thought I saw a goddess.
Here all the desires are hidden. After the wind blowing, he saw the samurai’s wife. Then this desire leads him to commit crime. As id is pleasure principle desire is also pleasure principle. And ego or super ego is reality principle that resemble among the characters in the scenes.
Tajomaru                      : Stop it, Don’t bully her. Women are weak by nature.
The Woman                  : It’s you who are weak. If you are my husband, why don’t
                                       you kill this man?
Laura Mulvey (1975) explains about scopophilia and male gaze. Scopophilia is sexual. In Rashomon the woman is the object of male (Tajomaru) desire. She more explains that in a world structured by ‘sexual imbalance’ the pleasure of the gaze has been separated into two distinct positions; men look and women exhibit ‘to-be-looked-at-ness. Women are therefore crucial to the pleasure of the male gaze.

Tajomaru           :  Your husband has taken sick.
                           : I beg you to be my wife. The notorious bandit Tajomaru is
                            begging you on his hands and knees.

Langue-Parole and Justice-Performance:
Rashomon is the best example of a philosophical film. The philosophy of justice is the main investigative matter of this film. But if we deconstruct it with the theory of structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure, it will easy to us to divide the whole film into two parts according to the structuralism theory.  Ferdinand de Saussure makes a distinction that has proved essential to the development of structuralism. This is the division of language into Langue and Parole. Langue refers to the system of language, the rules and conventions that organize it. Parole refers to the individual utterance, the individual use of language. The first is structure and the second is performance. In the film, we will imagine the court or the justice is structure or rules or system and the characters paying their role in the zone; it is their performance. The rules have been created for the performers. When the court took the witness from the characters it is its structure on the contrary the characters play role, it is their performance.

Tajomaru                      : I know sooner or later you’ll have my neck,
                                       So I am not going to hide anything.
                                     : It is this Tajomaru who killed that man.

Knowledge and Power:
 Michel Foucault explains that knowledge is always a weapon of power; It is in discourse that power and knowledge are joined together (Foucault, 2009:318). He also explains that power produces knowledge. Power and knowledge directly imply one another (1979:27). Power produces reality, through discourses it produces the ‘truths’ (Foucault, 2002a:131). In Rashomon Akira Kurosawa has created several scenes that resemble with the theory of Michel Foucault. In Rashomon Tajomaru does discourse in such a way that if it is real and the samurai follow him for the power of the reality or truth. Actually the samurai took bandit’s discourse as reality. And the bandit in such a way describes the discourse that is his power.
Tajomaru                   : There are some ruins over there. When I dug up the mound,
                                    I found a heap of swords and mirrors. I buried them in a
                                    grove behind the mountain so no one else would find them.
                                   If you are interested, I’ll sell them to you cheap.
                            
                              : Your husband has taken sick.

Both of the above scenes are knowledge and reality based. At first the samurai thinks may be there are many swords and mirrors in the grove. And the woman also thinks similarly that his husband is really sick. The knowledge Tajomaru has is his power and he produces reality with the power. Foucault (2009) more points out that where there is power there is resistance. There are resemblances of the theory with the senses of the Rashomon film.

The Woman                  : What I saw in them was neither anger nor sorrow, but a
                                        cold light, a look of loathing.
The Woman                 : It’s you who are weak. If you are my husband, why don’t  
                                      you kill this man?
                                     : Just remember; A woman loves a man who loves
                                       passionately.
After that dialogue the last fight was started between the bandit and the samurai.




A Philosophical representation:
‘Rashomon’ is the philosophical representation using ideology. Whole film has several flashbacks that are the divisions of the representation system. It is also an ideology. Louis Althusser points out, ideology is a system of representation (images, myths, ideas or concepts). Ideology is unconscious. (1969:23). The film is a representation of philosophical ideology. The whole film is started with the dialogue of the woodcutter that ‘I don’t understand and after that the priest tells that this time, I may finally lose my faith in the human soul. But the last dialogue of the priest was I think I can keep my faith in human. There are huge concepts or ideology or images or ideas that make the whole film as a philosophical representation.  

The Philosophy of Justice:
The whole film is about the philosophy of justice of a murder and a rape case. In the court everyone gives their own opinion and witness in a contradictory way. And their ideas or thinks don’t resemble with others. The four participants give their witness. The woodcutter also gives opinion but he did not want to involve with the case. One reason can be his taking the missing dagger that is valuable with the pearl inlay. But his witness is something neutral because he tells that there was no dagger and the samurai was killed by a sword So that the dagger can be hidden. And no one can ask about this. But at the eleventh hour of the film, we can know the real position of the dagger.

The woodcutter             : Everyone is selfish and dishonest. The bandit, the woman
                                        and you(the commoner).
The commoner              : you may have fooled the court, but not me.
                                      : So what did you do with the dagger?
                                      : The valuable one with the pearl inlay.
But this is not a clue to investigate the whole event or to identify that who is the murderer because everyone is giving their own witness and these are different from other’s witness and the story is also contradictory. But the visuals and the performances of the characters their emotions are very important to investigate the philosophy of the film. In the jungle, when the woodcutter was walking towards the mountains three days ago, this scene is something durable. But why? The jungle is silent and another point is that the jungle is very big. A vast jungle and it is silent. So, it provides a message that when the samurai walking with his wife ridding on horse, he looks the bandit and thinks that this jangle would be horrible as it silent all around.
The whole film is made with visual complexities played by the characters in a court. The performer’s contradictory opinion is the main philosophy of the movie. Though for the first time in this movie flashback is used several times. And the state is differentiated with sunny and rainy days. At the present time the film is started with rainy day but past moments are started with sunny days. The audiences can find the present and past easily. It is also important in the movie.

Conclusion:
Desire leads Tajomaru to involve with the murder and the rape case. Before he did not know about it as it is instinctual drive that does in unconscious process. But the main philosophical investigation is why the woman and the samurai admitted themselves as guilty. The woodcutter’s witness something neutral he also tells lie. So investigation philosophy of the film is very different alike the woodcutter told I don’t understand. But he is a eye witness. If he cannot understand why should we expect to?
Akira Kurosawa has uplifted the difference of human nature in this film. At first I have described about this. Kurosawa told that ‘Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing.’
References
1.                 The Guardian (2010)  link https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jun/17/rashomon-kurosawa-film-review
4.                 https://www.empireonline.com/movies/rashomon/review
6.                 http://www.reelviews.net/reelviews/rashomon
8.                 https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/rashomon


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