Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rashomon (1950)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rashomon (1950, Jp.)

In director Akira Kurosawa's cinematic, landmark masterpiece about the nature of truth and the shaping of perceptions from different perspectives - the winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1951, and the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival - this multi-layered film replayed (in flashback) the same crime story multiple times from different characters' eyes as they told incompatible, contradictory tales of the mysterious 'rape' and murder in the woods in 12th century feudal Japan:

The order of the stories:

  1. introduction of woodcutter and priest at the Rashomon gate
  2. the bandit's story during trial
  3. the wife's story during trial
  4. the samurai's story (conveyed through a medium) during trial
  5. the woodcutter's version at the Rashomon gate
The Four Witnesses

The Bandit/Rapist Tajōmaru (Toshirō Mifune)

The 'Raped' Wife Masako (Machiko Kyō)

The Murdered 'Samurai' Husband (Masayuki Mori) (Communicating Through a Female Medium (Fumiko Honma))

The Woodcutter Kikori (Takashi Shimura) Who Claimed He Found the Body in the Forest
  • the film opened under the shelter of Rashomon (the ruined South gate to modern day Kyoto), during a steady downpour, as woodcutter Kikori (Takashi Shimura) told a "strange" and "horrible" story (from three days earlier) to a commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) and temple priest Tabi Hōshi (Minoru Chiaki)
  • the woodcutter had discovered a murdered samurai nobleman while he was in the woods; in a marvelous moving tracking shot through the forest, he first found four pieces of evidence (a woman's reed hat with veil, a samurai's cap, a cut-up piece of rope, and an amulet case) before he found the body; he reported his story to the police along with the priest, who reported that he saw the samurai traveling with his wife the day of the murder (or suicide); then, they listened to the arrested and captured bandit who was injured (after being thrown from the samurai's stolen horse)
  • the outlaw/bandit Tajōmaru (Toshirō Mifune) told his version of the story; he watched from the cover of the dense forest when he glimpsed the wife Masako (Machiko Kyo); she was concealed under a large hat and veil, while led on a horse by her samurai husband (Masayuki Mori); when the bandit glimpsed her bare feet and the camera panned up to partially reveal her face through the open veil, he was awestruck by the sight and coveted her; he recalled: "I caught a glimpse and then she was gone. Maybe that's why I thought I saw a goddess. At that moment, I decided to capture her, even if I had to kill her man, but if I could have her without killing, all the better. My intention then was to take her without killing the man"; the bandit chased after them to confront them; he lied to the husband and led him deep into the woods where he attacked him (and tied him with a rope to a pine tree); he returned to the wife who fully opened her veil to him; he told her the samurai was sick; she turned pale and looked at him with "frozen eyes"; the bandit changed his feelings about her husband: "When I saw that, I envied the man and I suddenly hated him"; he dragged the wife back into the forest, where the wife fiercely defended herself with an expensive dagger, but then exhausted, she yielded and let herself be seduced by the bandit ("And so I succeeded in having her without killing her husband. I still had no intention of killing him"); the samurai was released and the two men dueled to the death over the wife's honor (after she begged: "Either you die or my husband dies...To have my shame known to two men is worse than dying. I will go with the survivor"); the bandit killed the samurai, but then the scared wife ran away
The Bandit's Tale

Wife's Defense with Dagger

Wife Succumbing to Bandit

Sword Duel to Death Between Two Men
  • in the wife's completely contradictory testimony, the "docile" woman claimed she yielded to the bandit (while her "horrified" husband was tied up) and then the bandit partially untied the husband and ran off; the wife was distraught that her cold and loathing husband wouldn't forgive her; she grabbed the dagger, cut the remaining ropes, held out the dagger and begged: "Now kill me. Kill me at once"; as the husband kept coldly staring at her, she fainted with the dagger in her hand; when she awoke, she found her husband dead with the dagger in his chest ("I saw my dagger in my dead husband's chest"); she somehow fled from the woods and attempted to commit suicide by throwing herself in a pond, but as she admitted: "I failed to kill myself"
  • in the samurai's testimony (via a medium), after the rape (with her "virtue stained") while the samurai was still tied up, the wife begged ("Take me wherever you want"); she agreed to join the bandit and asked for the bandit to kill her husband ("Please kill him. While's he alive, I cannot go with you. Kill him!"); the bandit was so shocked by his unfaithful wife's request that he asked the samurai ("What do you want me to do with her? Kill her or save her?"); the samurai was ready to pardon the bandit for his crime; at that moment, the wife fled and got away; the bandit set the samurai free; left by himself, the samurai committed suicide with his wife's dagger by thrusting it into his heart, but later, it was missing from the scene of the crime (someone had removed it from his heart)
  • back at the Rashomon gate, the woodcutter's objective account contradicted the other three stories - he had seen both the rape and murder (but didn't testify because he didn't want to get involved); he claimed the bandit begged the samurai's wife to marry him ("Marry me please! If you say no, I have no choice but to kill you"), but she refused and instead freed her husband's rope with the dagger; the samurai told the bandit: "I refuse to risk my life for such a woman" and called her a "shameless whore"; the conniving wife called her reluctant husband "weak" and urged both men to fight for her love ("A man has to make a woman his by his sword"); when the two men began to duel for her, she hid her face in fear; the fight was actually not as bold, passionate, noble or dramatic as the bandit had recounted; however, the outlaw was able to kill the samurai, and afterwards, the fearful wife fled from him; as he left the scene, the bandit took the samurai's sword with him
The Woodcutter's Version

Bandit: "I beg you to be my wife"

Wife: "It's Impossible"

The Men Dueled Over Her
  • in the epilogue, it was revealed that the reason the woodcutter was reluctant to testify was because he was also "a bandit" who had taken the pearl-inlaid dagger from the murder scene; however, he was redeemed in the eyes of the suspicious priest when the woodcutter revealed that his motives were not dishonest or selfish; he decided to adopt an abandoned baby - although he already had a family of six children: ("Another one wouldn't make a difference")
  • the film's final line of dialogue was delivered by the grateful priest who had listened to the woodcutter's account (and saw his selfless act) and had his faith restored in humanity: "No, I'm grateful to you. Thanks to you, I think I can keep my faith in man."

Woodcutter Returning Home with Baby
Woodcutter's Adoption of Abandoned Baby (in Priest's Arms)
  • as the woodcutter walked home with the baby in his arms, leaving the Rashomon gate, the rainstorm stopped and the sun began to shine

The Rashomon Gate

(l to r): Priest, Commoner, Woodcutter

The Priest Testified to Seeing the Wife and Samurai on the Road

The Bandit's Tale:

The Bandit Watched the Couple

The Wife Concealed Under Veil

Wife's Face First Revealed to Bandit

The Wife's Tale:

The Unforgiving Husband-Samurai

The Shamed Wife

The Wife With the Dagger Asking to Be Killed Before Fainting

The Samurai's Account:

The Medium

Wife to Bandit: "Take me wherever you want"

Wife to Bandit: "Kill him"

The Samurai's Suicide with Dagger


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