Film 101: The Rashomon Effect

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poster from Rashomon

It’s been a long time since I updated Film 101, so I decided to pick something that I’ve wanted to cover for a while: the Rashomon effect, which you’ve most likely seen even if you didn’t know it was called that.

First, the definition: The Rashomon effect occurs when the same event is given contradictory interpretations by the different individuals involved. The name derives from Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, where the murder of a samurai is described in four mutually contradictory ways, with the final description presented as “the truth.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it appears a lot in crime shows (imagine episodes of CSI where different suspects are being interviewed and they each describe what happened from their perspective, but everything is different each time it is told). Another good example is the third season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “A Matter of Perspective” where Commander Riker is put on trial for allegedly murdering a scientist. Using the ship’s holodeck, the events are recreated using each person’s testimony, with radically different interpretations of the same events.

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Still from “A Matter of Perspective”

The Rashomon effect is interesting because it often forces the audience to ask themselves “what is the truth?” and even when the “solution” is given, there is sometimes an implication that there is no correct answer and the truth must be determined for oneself. As a side note, given that the characters involved give contradictory accounts of certain events, they can also be considered unreliable narrators (meaning, unlike certain shows where you have no reason to question what a character says, an unreliable narrator cannot be trusted under any circumstances).

Thinking about the Rashomon effect, do any examples come to mind? List one or two in the comments below, along with what you think about the Rashomon effect (like, is it still a good technique or has it had its day?) Have a good day and thank you again for supporting Film Music Central 🙂

See also:

Film 101

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2 thoughts on “Film 101: The Rashomon Effect

  1. Pingback: Film 101: Unreliable Narrator | Film Music Central

  2. movierob

    great article Becca! Love films and stories that use the rashomon idea some better than others tho!

    showing varying viewpoints in similar events can sometimes give us so much insight into what it really happening!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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