Bible Review 17:3, June 2001

Genesis as Rashomon

The creation as told by God and man

By Pamela Tamarkin Reis

Ever since Rashomon took the grand prize at the Venice Film Festival 50 years ago, the movie by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa has been the subject of extensive critical analysis. Based loosely on two early-20th-century short stories, one of which was itself a retelling of several tenth-century Japanese narratives, the film relates the story of an encounter in the woods from the varying perspectives of four participants: a woodcutter, a patrician, the patrician’s beautiful wife and a bandit.1 As each narrator speaks, his or her version of events is depicted on screen. The woodcutter’s account is simple and unsophisticated; the bandit’s is jumpy and jittery; the patrician’s is dignified and the damsel’s is hysterical. Depending on the version, the film viewer witnesses a scenario that involves either a murder or a suicide, preceded by a rape or a seduction. The four stories—both overlapping and contradictory—leave the viewer hard-pressed to sort out the truth about what happened in the woods.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.