The Rashomon Effect

Rashomon (1950)

Rashomon (1950) is a spectacular film in my opinion. After the rape and murder of a bride and murder of her samurai husband, a bandit is on trial, and the events are recalled by all parties involved. The recollections, however, contradict each other, and the woodcutter who discovered the body knows more than he’s letting on.

The Rashomon effect therefore is, in the cinematic world, where unreliable characters describe a situation, in which an event is given contradictory interpretations or descriptions by the people involved.

This isn’t going to be a critique about the following films, more rather a mention that I noticed some similarity.  

Here are the films that I consider have the Rashomon effect;

Citizen Kane (1941)

Rosebud is the first word uttered in this film, but this scene also starts the unreliable storytelling.  The man servant says that he was in the room to hear Charles Foster Kane’s last words, yet we the audience see that he was in fact, not there at all.

The viewer gains more information about the titular, now dead character through the journalist’s interviews with several people who were considered to have known him well.  They can only tell us their interpretation of him objectively, so we don’t really learn that much at all, but the audience knows something that each of those do not, what Rosebud truly is.

Vantage Point (2008)

Dennis Quad stars in this action thriller, of which he plays Thomas Barnes, a secret service man, embroiled in an attempted assassination of the American President.  How this differs from the same type of film, is that it is told, and retold from different viewpoints of people who were nearby. 

Gone Girl (2014)

This film is like a deep dive of what an unreliable character looks like!  We, the viewer, follow and digest what we are being given, but, no! It is not what we thought at all.  This is a film of sweet, deranged vengeance of someone who has been or thinks that they have been done wrong.  I suppose it is up to the viewer to decide who is exactly the victim in this tale.

Knives Out (2019)

Daniel Craig plays the detective Benoit Blanc in this film, where he is investigating the death of successful author and patriarch Harlan Thrombey (played by the late Christopher Plummer).  During his investigation, he interviews all of the family who each have a slightly different interpretation of the events prior to Thrombey’s death.  There was one consistency however, not one member of the household knew which South American country Marta (Thrombey’s nurse) was from!

The Last Duel (2021)

This film set in France during the Middle Ages is about the last judicial duel to take place there. Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) accuses Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of raping his wife, Marguerite (Jodi Comer).  The film is set in three acts, and each as the title card sets out is the truth according to …

The truth remains true throughout, but viewing the truth from each character’s perspective, is what makes it more interesting. 

I’ve been super vague because if you haven’t seen any of these films, then I’m urging you to!

Drop me a comment and let me know what you think.

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