Film screening: Rashomon (1950), by Akira Kurosawa – Thursday 5 March


Gorvy Lecture Theatre (Dyson Building, Battersea), 15.45-17.20

Preceding the research biennial, this film series seeks to explore how and in what ways ethical questions have been and can be interrogated in film.

‘The art of representation is … a long way removed from the truth, and it is able to reproduce everything because it has little grasp of anything, and that little is of a mere phenomenal appearance.’

- Socrates, in Plato’s Republic

Is there such a thing as objective truth? Can metaphor and representation allow ways of accessing truths? What is the relationship between truth, morality and testimony?

Credited with bringing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences, Akira Kurosawa’s breakthrough tells the story of a murder in the woods from four differing perspectives.

The word ‘Rashomon’ has passed into the English language to signify a narrative told from various, unreliable viewpoints. In this case, the mystery relates to the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife in 11th century Japan, events which are relayed in wildly differing versions by those present: the bandit, the treacherous wife, a passing woodcutter and the spirit of the dead samurai.

This radically non-linear structure, with its profound implications about the fallibility of perspective, impressed judges at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. They awarded Akira Kurosawa’s film the Golden Lion, helping to encourage a broader interest in Japanese film in the west. With its snaking bolero-like score and poetic use of dappled forest light, Rashomon is a work of enduring ambiguity.

Vastly influential on subsequent film and television, Kurosawa’s film was directly remade by Hollywood as the western The Outrage (1964), starring Paul Newman.

‘In more ways than one, Rashomon is like a vast distorting mirror or, better, a collection of prisms that reflect and refract reality.’ – Donald Richie, The Films of Akira Kurosawa, 1984

Biennial film screenings are curated by Helena Bonett, Emily Richardson and Mercedes Vicente