Stanley J. Solomon

The film contains four subjective segments in which individual characters relate their eye-witness accounts
of a single event. These four personal accounts are themselves included in a narrative that contains a plot
of its own, not necessarily connected to the central event described in each of the four segments. The
complexity of the structure requires a shifting in mode for almost each sequence, which Kurosawa
manages to handle without splitting his style into bits and pieces. Throughout, the camera style reflects
the filmmaker's unifying sensibility.

Although there had been films in which a situation or a location provided the framework for numerous
unrelated stories concerning the characters who happen to be in the specific environment Kurosawa's film
did something that had never been done before: it shifted the emphasis slightly so that the framing story
and the inner narratives become meaningful inasmuch as they shed light on each other. The narrative
reminds us of Joseph Conrad's fiction because the story that is listened to has an effect on the listeners,
who perform a small but decisive action at the end based on how they have been affected by the events

The inner story concerns three characters, Takehiro, a samurai, his wife, Masago, and Tajomaru, a bandit
(played with astonishing verve and variety by Toshiro Mifune, still the only Japanese actor widely known in
the West).

Before the film begins each of the three characters has told his own version of the events to a
magistrate conducting an investigation into the samurai's death. (Since he is dead, the samurai's version
is told through an intermediary, a medium.) These three accounts are related to the movie audience by a
priest and a woodcutter, who speak to a man referred to in the screenplay as the commoner while they
are all taking shelter from the rain in the ruins of the Rashomon, a gate or gatehouse outside the city of
Kyoto, the ravaged capital of twelfth-century Japan. The woodcutter and the priest have heard the three
versions of the participants during the official examination before the magistrate; throughout the film the
woodcutter appears overwhelmed by the dishonesty of the testimony, and finally admitting that he was an
eye-witness, he relates his own version of the events. He has become completely discouraged by his
realization of human depravity, not so much because the Incidents were horrible but because Takehiro,
Masago, and Tajomaru felt compelled to make up lies that in each case put the narrator in the best
possible light. In the woodcutter's view, all human honor is lost by each character's attempt to transform
objective reality so as to support the needs of his ego. The priest also begins to feel discouraged about
the readiness of men to do anything for their own ends, so that near the conclusion of the film he
becomes highly suspicious of a gesture by the woodcutter. In other words, the woodcutter's version affects
the one sensitive listener, the priest, while the other listener, the crude commoner, is either unaffected or
inspired to commit a miserable theft at the end of the film.

Before we can analyze the technical and artistic achievement of the moving camera in this film, we must
look in considerable detail at the complicated narrative content of the four variations on the basic
episode. It will he seen later that Kurosawa uses the camera to unify the plot and distinguish the four
versions of the central story. The difficulty of this feat is compounded by the complexity of the narrative's
raw materials. The first three versions, told by the participants, differ in many minor details, and even
some essential facts are contradicted; only a few general premises seem agreed upon such as the fact
that the bandit succeeded in overcoming the samurai and tying him to a tree and then made love to his
wife in his presence. However, these three versions are exactly alike in their evident intention to make the
speaker seem exalted by his part in the episode.

In the first version, Tajomaru the bandit explains to the magistrate how he cunningly tricked the samurai
and his wife into following him into a remote part of the forest. After overcoming the samurai in a fight
and binding him, Tajomaru attempts to take the woman by force. She determinedly and fiercely fights
him off, gaining his admiration for her spirit; but suddenly finding the bandit desirable, she succumbs to
him. Thus, Tajomaru's story up to this point has made the bandit (1) exceedingly clever at his trade, (2)
sophisticated enough to appreciate an extraordinary women even though she tries to kill him while
defending herself, and (3) so masculinely attractive that he is capable of winning over this woman, not
having to take her by force. Yet even at this, Tajomaru has not completed his description of his heroic
escapades. The wife, he relates, insists that either the husband or the lover must die to salvage her
honor. Tajomaru, understanding the validity of the suggestion, nobly cuts the rope from the samurai and
engages him in a fantastic duel. Although earlier in this version he was depicted as being excessively
cautious, perhaps even cowardly, Tajomaru performs like Zorro, and after a magnificent fight he slays the
samurai. As he says to the magistrate, 'We crossed swords over twenty-three times. Think of that! No one
had ever crossed over twenty with me before.' He concludes by saying that the woman had run off during
the fight, and he didn't bother to look for her. Thus, Tajomaru admits to the killing, for as a notorious
bandit he would undoubtedly be executed even if he were innocent of this particular crime. He has
managed to gain our sympathy because his nature is inherently heroic and dignified.

The dominant tone of the second version, that of the wife, Masago, is pathos - which is, to her, an
equivalent for masculine heroics, for she becomes the epitome of feminine sensitivity and human dignity,
the helpless victim of an outrage. As she tells it, the bandit did rape her, then laughed and ran off into
the woods; there was no sword fight nor any suggestion on her part that one of the two men must die. In
fact, she runs weeping to her husband, still tied to the tree trunk, and throws herself first on the ground
and then on him, pathetically imploring some kind remark from him. He remains silent, staring at her
contemptuously. In his eyes she has been dishonored, even though she could do nothing to prevent the
rape. When she cuts the ropes she offers him her dagger to kill her. He still remains absolutely
unmovable, still implacably scornful of her. The filmscript at this point describes the woman as growing
more desperate, and then in close-up, 'she moves steadily forward now; her world forever destroyed, she
holds the dagger high, without seeming to be aware of it. The camera tracks with her in the direction of
her husband until she suddenly lunges off screen.' She claims to have fainted, probably not consciously
aware of having killed him. She says that later she tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide and concludes
her version by asking, 'What should a poor helpless woman like me do?'

The version of the dead samurai is told through a medium who conjures up his voice. (For the premise of
the film, this conjuring must be accepted as a supernatural event; the story turns out as untrue as the
other two versions, but not because of any interference with the materials on the part of the medium.)
Takehiro, the samurai, claims that Tajomaru, after the rape, successfully consoled Masago, asking her to
run off with him, as he really loved her. Takehiro describes his wife's reaction - 'Never, in all of our life
together, had I seen her more beautiful,' - as she obviously returned the bandit's love (the superb
camerawork achieves the effect of making Masago look indeed more beautiful than she had elsewhere in
the film). Masago agrees to go off with the bandit, but just before leaving she insists that Tajomaru kill
her husband. From this point Takehiro shapes his story, as Tajomaru did his, to show his adversary as
noble. In other words, Tajomaru has already described himself as the suffering husband shocked to
discover his wife's perfidy; now, he must elevate himself and his reaction to this perfidy by elevating the
bandit. Tajomaru is made to share Takehiro's shock at the revelation of Masago's character; thus,
Takehiro's narrative makes the wife the villain and the bandit an upholder of the sort of code that
Takehiro himself epitomizes. When Tajomaru throws the woman down and asks the husband whether he
should kill her, the husband says that he almost forgave the bandit because of his assertion of the code
of masculine honor. She runs away, and the bandit tries to catch her, returning hours later without having
found her. Then Tajomaru, offering no explanation, cuts the samurai loose and walks off into the forest.
Now Takehiro tells us that he heard someone crying, and in a close-up we see it is the isolated husband
himself. Shortly thereafter, the husband commits suicide by plunging Masago's dagger in his breast. After
that, he remembers someone pulling the dagger from his breast as he died. Thus, the husband's version,
like the previous two versions, ends with the speaker's claiming credit for the death of Takehiro - that
death being the only ascertainable fact up to this point. And like the other two versions, the purpose of
Takehiro's account has been to show himself as a truly noble character, superior to the others.
The fourth version is told by the woodcutter, who hidden from view observed the episode without
participating in it, although at the end it is apparent that he stole the dagger that was sticking in the
ground (the other three versions agree that the dagger at one time was sticking in the ground, dropped
by Masago during her encounter with Tajomaru; though the husband of course claimed it was eventually
stolen from his breast). For having taken this valuable implement, a piece of evidence, the woodcutter
feels incriminated to the degree that he did not tell his story to the police; instead he tells it at last only
to the commoner and the priest. Kurosawa intends that this version stand for the truth, though many
critics feel it is also a relative account.

RASHOMON is not a film about the relativity of truth, however; it is about the kinds of lies people will tell
to protect their self-image, the most important possession a man believes he has. Normally, the final
version of any controverted narrative represents the truth. For critics to doubt the fourth version, they
must feel that the key to everything lies in the final remarks of the samurai that someone pulled out the
dagger just as he died. First of all, if his remarks are true, then his story must be basically the truth, an
impossibility here, for no narrative structure (literary or cinematic) could rest on a third version that
contradicts two prior versions and is in turn completely contradicted by a following version. Some critics
argue that the samurai's final remarks are either a pointless lie or the truth. It is clear that his concluding
lie is not pointless: he lies to cover the loophole in his suicide story, which no one could believe without
his accounting for the weapon. He knows that objectively judged, he will appear to have been killed in a
battle, the victor then removing the sword, which is what happened. The dagger later was stolen from the
ground by the woodcutter, for it was a piece of valuable property that the poor man could not resist.
The fourth version is not only placed advantageously to set the record straight, but its tone as well
communicates a sense of the reality of the characters as we are ourselves destined to think of them once
we understand that they are liars. If they are lying yet eager to admit to the killing, then the truth of their
conduct must be much worse than the capacity to commit the violent act they confessed to. The
woodcutter reveals their nature to us without involving his own character one way or the other, and so, in
the absence of any apparent motive for his lying or evidence of his having any relationship with these
characters, we must conclude that he is telling the truth.. Even if we are not certain about the question of
whether he took the dagger from the ground or the body, we could hardly expect him to invent a complex
variant simply to cover his petty crime from the eyes of the commoner and the priest.

The woodcutter's story is spoken without musical accompaniment, whereas music has brilliantly been used
to help establish the mood of the three previous stories. The lack of music coupled with the lack of the
narrator's participation in the version significantly distinguishes this narrative from the others. He relates
the story after the rape: Tajomaru pleads with his victim to marry him: he is willing to reform, to give up
thieving. In reply, the woman cuts her husband's bonds, indicating that the two men must fight over her.
Immediately the samurai, a perfect parody of that brave warrior class Kurosawa has often depicted
elsewhere, backs off, proclaiming his refusal to fight and put his life in jeopardy; then he calls his wife a
whore and suggests that she kill herself. Next, as the two men stare at each other, the samurai offers to
give the bandit his wife, but Tajomaru after some indecision decides instead to accept Takehiro's
evaluation of the woman. At this point, Masago begins to taunt the two men with their cowardice and lack
of manhood to such an extent that swords are drawn, and after much hesitancy and trepidation on the
part of both men, the battle begins. In its depiction of incompetence, clumsiness, cowardice, and
desperation tactics the battle stands as a burlesque of all the serious battles that Kurosawa went on to
construct in such films as THE SEVEN SAMURAI, YOJIMBO, and RED BEARD, in which the same actor,
Mifune, was to partake with tremendous glory. Here the combatants' arms shake as they cross swords;
when one swings, the other runs; every advance culminates in a stumble. Tajomaru hurls his sword at the
cringing samurai, who screams, 'I don't want to die! I don't want to die!' After the battle Tajomaru is
stupefied and exhausted. He even swings the samurai's sword at Masago, who flees into the forest.
Finally, he removes both his sword and Takehiro's from the grove, limping off into the forest.
Thus, the fourth version has the effect of revealing the abject nature of all three participants. We
understand now why they prefer to claim credit for the violence, as long as they can shape the incidents to
bolster their egos. We last see the three anti-heros in positions of fear, the samurai dying ignobly, the
wife rushing off frantically from the scene of the debacle, and the victor, 'half crazed', staggering away into
the forest. The woodcutter has witnessed the mutual disillusionment and debasement of three people,
and as a result has become skeptical of mankind in general.

In addition to the usual problems involved in adapting a literary source to the screen, Kurosawa was faced
with a difficulty in transforming the theme of his literary source into the entirely different theme he wished
to express. Ryunosuke Akutagawa's short story 'In a Grove' was conceived in terms of the technique of
multiple points of view: its theme and its technical presentation are the same, and for Kurosawa to use
the story at all meant a commitment on his part to preserve what interested him (the multiple points of
view) but to redirect the implications of the plot with respect to moral relativism, which is not part of
Kurosawa's view of the world. Little or nothing resides beneath the surface of the Akutagawa story, and
none of Kurosawa's other films are as simplistic as this source. Kurosawa turned the surface complexity
into a mirror of the internal development of the director's ideas (not the story writer's). The first thing
Kurosawa must have done was to evolve a frame for the personal narratives spoken by the characters,
and he took it from another interesting Akutagawa story, 'Rashomon'. The humanistic idea of the
'Rashomon' story has to do with the deterioration of human values under the pressures of deplorable
external conditions (impoverishment). Thus, the main body of the film is taken from 'In a Grove',
Incorporated into a framework based on 'Rashomon', and structured so that the framing story and the
personal versions of the rape and the death take their meaning from their juxtaposition in a newly
created context.

This is an interesting technical achievement, but it is doubtful whether the mere power of even Kurosawa's
intellectually evocative context could have held everything together in what is, after all, a short film (only
88 minutes). The real problem, once the intellectual concept suggests itself, concerns the way of
approaching the materials. Highly literary and intellectual as these sources are, they have been turned
into a totally cinematic event. Even while in the process of straightening out the intellectual procedure of
this work, Kurosawa had to create a film style to embody the stories and all of the themes - in fact, to
relate the theme and stories in spite of what might have been their tendency to seem disparate,
hopelessly unsolvable, and so inwardly directed that they appear in Akutagawa's texts as essentially

It is in this respect that the fascinating use of the moving camera becomes not the tour de force critics at
first admired it as, but more than that: it holds the film together and clarifies that impressionism so
deeply involved in any interested party's narration of highly emotionally charged incidents. We see a
rapidly moving camera creating in certain sections a frenetic pace; moreover, the conditions under which
each character receives his impressions - or at least the way in which he later tells the world he has
received them - relates to the unstable internal conditions of the narrators.

To preserve the surface realism of each first-person version, Kurosawa does not distort the literalness of
the image. The story exists in an environment that is real, and therefore the audience will believe what is
shown: the given 'facts' become the truth unless clear reasons exist for the viewer to doubt these facts.
Kurosawa had to find a way of avoiding two extremes: first, that each participant's version might become
so firmly rooted in objective reality that audiences would accept all versions as true and turn the whole film
into a paradox of alternative structures of reality, and second, that the presented evidence might be so
blatantly false that the audience would dismiss each version out of hand.

The film's style is designed around the use of a moving camera that continually clarifies to the viewer that
the angle of perception in a particular version belongs only to the speaker. As any judge knows, the
eye-witness account can be deceptive, unintentionally or deliberately, regardless of the degree of personal
involvement of the witness. In RASHOMON, we are very quickly alerted to the narrators' highly personal
involvement by the style of the film, and so we tend to accept the testimony of each of the participants
only tentatively once we discover (during the second narration) that the versions are contradictory.
The moving camera emphasizes narrative subjectivity by establishing different rhythms for each narration.
For instance, even before the versions are given, the woodcutter describes his discovery of the body. It in
this tracking-through-the-woods sequence that so astounded critics at the 1951 Venice Film Festival and
immediately established Kurosawa's reputation. Yet, assuredly, to Kurosawa the style of filming was
integral to the characterization. The woodcutter is a simple man. His swift movement through the forest
prior to discovering the body presents him in a happy, unassuming mood, though the music suggests an
undercurrent of tension. Following this, the first narrative is quite different, though it contains even swifter
movement through the forest. The bandit Tajomaru tells his story from a highly eccentric point of view,
which ought to put us at some distance from him right away. His erratic personality is duplicated by the
quickly shifting camera movements, quite different from the speedy tracking of the woodcutter's

The more slowly paced second and third versions contain much lose camera movement because the
narrators, the wife and the samurai, do not see the events in terms of the motions of all three characters
interacting; rather they both see themselves performing very meaningful dramatic gestures. Each is the
tragic figure in his own version. As the wife recounts her tale, she stresses her predicament and her
sensitive response to it: thus, we see her occupying most of the frame. Exactly the same is true of her
husband telling about himself in the third version. The relative proportion of static camera arrangements
is higher in these two versions than elsewhere in the film because each character portrays himself as a
solo performer (a key clue to the unreliability of the accounts, by the way). In the fourth version, which
presents the basic truth of the interior plot, the woodcutter sees everything from a detached point of view,
for he is not a participant until after the central action is completed. To suggest his objectified viewpoint,
the moving camera becomes once again prominent, creating a distancing effect and a satiric commentary
on the lies of the other three versions.

In its exploration of the individual point of view, the camera does not, in the first three versions, show us
the situation as it would have objectively appeared to the narrator during his participation in the events.
Instead - and this is of course the chief clue - the camera focuses on the narrator as he expands upon his
role in the drama. What we see then is not the narrator's perception of the event but his dramatization of
his part as he pretends it would appear to some objective observer. That no such observer existed was
the obvious understanding of the three lying participants. However, the fourth version is just that objective
observation: an intruder, the woodcutter, happening upon the scene witnessed the events, though
because of his shameful stealing of the dagger, he has not told his version to the authorities.
In the first version, the camerawork emphasizes the exaggerated, romantically childlike world of the
bandit, Tajomaru. In the second, it reveals the vain posturing of the wife, Masago, as she re-enacts her
fantasy in which her purity and innocence are victimized by the masculine brutality and evil of the world. In
the third, the husband pictures himself as a man of such overwhelming nobility and sensitivity that he
must commit suicide because the world cannot achieve his standard of humanism. The first three
versions, by emphasizing the movement of the speaker, de-emphasize the other two characters.
Therefore, the camerawork implicitly enlists in a conspiracy of concealment under the controlled
description of each narrator. The camerawork in the fourth version is premised on revelation. Here, the
woodcutter reveals to us what we might have guessed from our common-sense understanding of human
motives for lying: that the husband, the wife, and the bandit are all culpable and embarrassed at having
demonstrated to each other their contemptibility. They are not so much hiding facts from the rest of the
world as protecting themselves. And what they need to protect is not their physical beings, not even their
reputations, but their true selves, which exemplify horrifying lifestyles; they may vaguely know what they
are, but they surely don't want to face the truth of it.

In the fourth version, the camera movement suggestively comments on all of the previous camerawork,
whether moving or stationary, by turning the mood of the three 'serious' versions into comedy for the
purpose of revealing truth. Tajomaru is no longer heroic, dashing, and fair-minded; instead, he becomes
a clumsy fool, inept with the sword and uninspiring as a lover. The wife is no longer the beautiful victim of
female frailty but the instigator of trouble, an excessively proud woman with no concern for the lives of
either man. The samurai falls from the noble pedestal he erected for himself and is seen as a craven
coward, the anti-samurai, who when placed in a position to defend his wife's honor pronounces what must
be one of the greatest comic lines in the Japanese cinema: 'I refuse to risk my life for such a woman.'
Much of the revelation that we get from the fourth sequence is communicated purely by the objective
camera's reversing of the carefully fabricated moods established by the subjective camera in the other
three versions. We learn, finally, that what was recorded by the camera was not reality but the distortions
of each character.

The fourth version, then, is crucial to our perspective on the preceding versions. We have already looked
at some of the evidence for establishing the validity of the woodcutter's story, to which we can add that
the whole satiric revelation of the bandit-samurai encounter would be gratuitous if the final version were
not the truth. In addition, the framing story would have meant nothing, for the obvious agony of the
woodcutter throughout, his claims that human beings are shockingly depraved, and his desire to find
meaning in the chaos of lies would have been sheer pretence on his part, and a waste of his own effort in
misleading the commoner and the priest for no conceivable reason. It is our conviction of the truth of the
final version that makes the concluding action of the framing story relevant to the whole film. To make
sure that this version would not he weighed merely as one more relative Interpretation of the incidents,
Kurosawa switched the camera's point of view to omit the narrator's presence, directly dramatizing the
objective reality of the situation.

In the fourth version, the moving camera is used to reveal the anti-heroic movements of the three
participants. In a series of comic shots that begins with Masago's accusing her husband of cowardice for
not fighting for her, the camera pans with her as she moves away from him, eliminating him from the
frame. Next, she advances upon Tajomaru, accusing him of the same kind of cowardice, even spitting in
his face, and followed by the camera, she moves away, symbolically dismissing the two men who were
about to abandon her. With the woman between them but back far enough so as not to be in the line of
their movement toward each other, the men, properly embarrassed, draw their swords. Four mid-shots are
intercut showing the men advancing timidly toward each other. Next comes a remarkably effective shot
that starts as a close-up of Masago as she nervously watches the men. As the camera dollies back to
reveal more of the area, we see that in front of Masago the two men are about to cross swords. We do not
see the men, only the tips of their swords, shaking extravagantly from their mutual fear of battle. As the
swords touch, we discover the full extent of their fear in the long shot that follows: the two men stumble
backwards, the samurai flees, Tajomaru follows and trips; the men swing wildly at each other and then run
in opposite directions, as confused as they are frightened.

Another way in which Kurosawa's visual style affects our perception of the characters in this film is through
the frequent dissociations of the characters from their environment, an effect brought about by quick
camera movements. When characters' actions in the foreground necessitate frequent camera movements,
the background is visually de-emphasized as our attention is focused on the physical activity. A stationary
camera tends to relate characters to each other and their mutual background. and in this film such a
procedure might work against the inherent subjectivity of the various narrations. For example, Tajomaru
describes how, as the three characters first came together, he offered to lead the samurai to some
valuable swords he pretended to have found. As Tajomaru crosses back and forth in front of the samurai
and his wife, trying to size them up and perhaps intimidate them, the camera movement emphasizes the
self-confidence conveyed by his gesture. A stationary shot would more likely have emphasized the drama
inherent in the scene, giving more weight to the samurai's response than Tajomaru as narrator would
have desired.

Although less noticeable there than in the four versions of the central event, the moving camera helps
convey the meaning of the framing story as well. The frame filters the diffuse pieces of information we
observe in the interior stories, simplifying the ideas into basically distinguishable attitudes toward the
meaning of the narrative as a whole. The art of RASHOMON requires both a commentary on and a
reaction to the contradictory versions of the narrative, and Kurosawa determines to shape that
commentary-reaction itself into a narrative, immediately enlarging the scope of the implications of all that
we have seen.

The movement of the framing story concerning the activities of the woodcutter, the priest, and the
commoner from an atmosphere of despair to one of hope is depicted in the most basic of all images, the
weather: it rains throughout the film and finally stops. The symbol suggests that the human actions have
taken part in a general movement toward a restoration of the normal order of things. As an external
comment on the development of the film's mood, the symbol can be effective because it powerfully
represents what we observe from the action itself.

The predicament is presented in these terms: living in the worst of all possible times, confronted with
extraordinary examples of human treachery, failure, selfishness, and hypocrisy, should man live in
continual suspicion of his fellow men, always expecting the worst of them, or should he - in spite of the
reality of man's infinite capacity for evil actions - still retain his faith in men? To sustain this very broad
issue, Kurosawa arranges for the camera to establish general positions swiftly and concretely in regard to
the two key elements. First, he depicts the immediate environment as symbolic of the worst of all times:
second, he uses his three characters to stand for the three possible reactions to the conditions of the age.
At the beginning the woodcutter stands for the divided man who does not know what position to take
about human nature. having just witnessed some incredible examples of dishonesty and distortion; he
represents the man seeking the truth. The commoner is the cynic, who if he is influenced at all changes
for the worse by the end. The priest starts as the affirming character who insists on believing in the better
nature of man, though as a victim of his age he has seen enough to shake his faith even before the film

As for the environment, clearly Kurosawa does not really insist on a specific time and place. He has no
particular interest in twelfth-century Kyoto (the town is not shown). But Kyoto may have some symbolic
value for the Japanese audience: as the title preceding the first shot says, it is a time 'when famines and
civil wars had devastated the ancient capital'. We see none of this. What Kurosawa takes care to make us
see in a number of shots against which the film's opening titles are flashed is the Rashomon gate during
a tremendous downpour. It could be any ruined edifice anywhere, and of course any time. But this is the
gate of an ancient capital, the symbol of a civilization in decline. The world seems to have declined as far
as possible; the disasters, as the priest mentions later, are not limited to man's sins: 'Wars,
earthquakes, great winds, fires, famines, plagues - each new year is full of disaster'. Nothing is offered to
counter the gloom so definitely conjured up by the characters. The camera at the very beginning
establishes the area in a traditional way, using mostly stationary shots, first showing us the gate, then
focusing on the priest and woodcutter. The sense of confinement is heightened by closer shots, capturing
the men against some small but noticeably unattractive portion of the background.

After each version of the central incident, we return to the framing story and the re-establishment of the
somber atmosphere in part depicted by the moving camera. For instance, after Tajomaru's version, we
have a close shot of the rain pouring on top of the Rashomon, and the camera tilts down to reveal the
three men below in an oppressive shot accompanied only by the sound of the rain. After Masago's
version, the camera returns to the steps of the Rashomon, focusing on the effect of the rain beating down
in a shot that reveals the men in the background, gradually tilting up to them. After the samurai's
version, the camera switches to the interior of the Rashomon, this time panning rather than tilting to
reveal the agitated motion of the woodcutter. On the return to the Rashomon after the fourth version, we
see another long shot of the interior, half of it blocked by a large beam; but now the camera does not
move as in the other reestablishing shots.

The tone for the final sequence of the film is at first despondent. The commoner. a total cynic, is not
surprised at the depravity of the participants, which he accepts as natural conduct. In fact, he assumes
that the woodcutter is lying, and eventually forces an implicit confession from him about the theft of the
dagger. The commoner raises the underlying issue of the film. If men will normally lie when their own
interests are involved, then, as the priest says, 'earth becomes a kind of hell.' And the commoner's
immediate cynical reply to this possibility is: 'You are right. The world we live in is a hell.' The priest claims
he does not want to believe this, but he knows that his spiritual surety is in deep trouble. Facing the
realism of the commoner and the muddled shock of the woodcutter, he can offer no reasonable or
instinctive argument against the prevailing gloomy evidence. He has only his will to believe.
At the moment when the three positions are fully presented and the argument seems to have reached an
impasse, waiting upon an event that will transform the stated attitudes into cinematic action, we suddenly
hear the crying of an infant. Although the introduction of a baby is unprepared for and does not grow out
of the plot, the baby's being abandoned there is not implausible. The baby, in any case, is intended as a
test of the attitudes previously articulated: cynicism, doubt, and indecision. Certainly, it is an imposition
upon the plot, but everything in the film is imposed artificially into a world meant to suggest a generalized
allegorical setting rather than a historically distinct place and time.

Hearing the cry, the commoner rushes off to find the baby: he acts promptly, on the motive that there
might be some gain for him if he can locate the infant first; the other two are less decisive. The camera
moves with them as they go to investigate the sound and discover the commoner stealing the baby's
clothes. Thus the situation has come down to the basic problem of how to respond to any new incident
outside the normal course of events. Since this world hovers on the edge of chaos, something unusual
ought to be expected: new disasters happen all the time, babies are abandoned, men killed, women
attacked. The interior story, though melodramatic, poses the problem of how to react in the face of an
unprepared-for event. The cynical commoner insists that in this age everyone lies and steals, and the
only crime is getting caught; only the fool does not take advantage of his opportunities. Thus, the
stealing of a baby's clothes, an atrocious moral action, becomes permissible, even advisable, conduct.
The other two are shocked. When the woodcutter insists on moral condemnation of the commoner, the
commoner accuses the woodcutter of stealing the dagger. The woodcutter is abashed by his guilt feelings,
and the commoner, convinced he has won the argument, leaves the ancient gate laughing.

Left alone, the priest holding the baby and the woodcutter standing next to him, the two men watch the
rain for an apparently long time, as indicated by three dissolves, the first a long shot, the second closer,
and the third closer yet. Between the men and the camera, dominating the visuals and the sounds, falls
the rain. The men stand silently, until the rain begins to stop. During the time they spend watching the
rain they have been considering the adequacy of their positions. The question of whether to trust in man
had been answered with an overwhelming negative by the commoner before he left. We see in the final
sequence of the last four minutes of RASHOMON that the priest has lost his faith, his simplistic belief in
man's potentiality for unselfish action.

Therefore, the only possibility of redemption lies with the woodcutter, but he has experienced a moral
crisis. He has been pushed into a paralytic position by the commoner, who made him grasp the similarity
of all kinds of theft. Seeing his moral culpability and relationship to the commoner, the woodcutter is
overwhelmed by sobering reflection. The theme Kurosawa is subtly affirming is that after all the
commoner was wrong: men still retain the capacity for acting unselfishly. The woodcutter was right when he
noted that all evil is committed by men ready to find excuses for their conduct, which means that
regardless of their actions men retain a moral consciousness, and thus a potentiality for redemption.
As the priest starts to move away after the rain stops, the woodcutter approaches him and indicates that
he will take the baby. At this gesture, the priest recoils vehemently and shouts, 'What are you trying to
do? Take away what little it has left?' Thus, in this remark, the priest's conversion to the commoner's view
is confirmed. He is absolutely suspicious of the woodcutter, who has all along appeared a gentle man. The
woodcutter immediately explains himself in so humble a way that he cannot be doubted. He says: 'I have
six children of my own. One more wouldn't make it any more difficult.' This indirect answer quite
eloquently summarizes the situation. The priest is suddenly made aware of his own lack of charity, his
misconception of human nature. In a flash, his previous humanistic view is shown to have its justification
in the woodcutter's unselfish offer to take the child.

It is a simple action, but the significance of this proof destroys the contention of the commoner that all
men must act always in their own interest. That was the commoner's justification for his conduct, and also
indirectly his explanation of the conduct of the bandit, the samurai, and the wife. Yet the film finally
makes it clear that even in the chaotic disorder of that world, man can rise above his baser inclinations.
Nothing is beyond the capacity of the depraved man, no evil unimaginable. Yet on the other hand, the
film shows that it is not the circumstances that make men depraved but the weak character of man that
makes him susceptible to committing evil under the guise of necessity (i.e. self-interest).
Evil is not eliminated by any number of good actions, but the premise that evil is essential for human
conduct is destroyed by a single good act. The last words are the priest's and he underscores Kurosawa's
theme by telling the woodcutter that because of him, 'I think I will be able to keep my faith in men.' In
the next-to-last shot, the camera tracks with the woodcutter as he leaves the Rashomon carrying the
infant. As he recedes, the powerful visual image of the sunny sky is seen behind him and the gate. When
he moves outside the frame, the camera stops. leaving us with a long shot of the priest seen in the
distance, watching after the woodcutter. The final picture is of the signboard over the gate. These last few
shots of RASHOMON reverse the impression of chaos and disaster established in the beginning. The sun
replacing the rain reminds us that the sense of disaster and disorder implanted earlier had much more to
do with the atmosphere created by the characters than with the weather. The state of mind induced in the
characters may very well be reflected by the weather, but it is not determined by it. There can be no doubt
that Kurosawa intended the final images of the film to suggest a restoration of moral order. The priest is
left in a state of renewed hope, and the reason for it is clearly seen in the woodcutter's going off with the
infant. The sunlight symbolizes the moral affirmation underlying the framing story, and it is revealed to
us by a moving camera shot that is consistent with those moving shots that have determined the stylistic
integrity of RASHOMON.