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Tonight I took a look at Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon," and I was intrigued by its look at the way men are quick to judge other men as criminals or sinners, despite the way every person tends to alter the truth for his own benefit. What I found strange about this movie was the way three of the four witnesses to the murder - the thief, the wife, and the husband - each convicted himself (or herself, in the case of the wife) as the murderer. I'm no expert on feudal Japanese customs, but I would guess that it would be considered a mark of honor for a person to admit his (or her) crime, after he has been caught.

The structure of the story is very odd - it actually uses a "double flashback" in order to tell the tale. In this movie, the present time is when the priest and the two men stand in the ruined temple and discuss the crime; the first flashback is to the official investigation where all the suspects are being questioned, and the SECOND flashback is from the inquiry to the site of the crime itself. This may be the only time I've seen this type of structure successfully work in a movie.

The ruined temple itself is obviously a metaphor: it represents the way men ultimately abandon all pretense at truth and honor to benefit themselves. The temple, which is normally a place of truth and justice (throughout history religious law has been as important as governmental law, until very recently), but the men carelessly start a fire with pieces of this holy place in order to keep themselves warm (benefit themselves).

A thought: it would be easy for people to be frustrated with this movie because it doesn't tell us exactly "whodunit." Just as audiences became enraged at David Lynch because he didn't tell them who killed Laura Palmer in "Twin Peaks," so Rashômon deliberately refuses to tell the truth as well. Of course, in both cases, "whodunit" is not what the story is trying to tell us.