We are officially in the “Holiday Season” and I’m sure
Akira Kurosawa’s breakout film was his 1950 suspense, Rashomon. Telling multiple stories through different perspectives, the film was the first of its kind, and have been made and remade in various avenues of storytelling ever since. Here are 9 things about the film you may not have known…
1. Rashomon is often credited for creating the Best Foreign Language film category at the Academy Awards.
2. The title of the film has recently been added to the Oxford English Dictionary as describing “…resembling or suggestive of the film Rashomon (1950), esp. in being characterized by multiple conflicting or differing … interpretations.”
3. When the film was released internationally to rave reviews, many speculated that Akira Kurosawa was influenced by Citizen Kane in the element of flashbacks that ultimately provide conflicting accounts of events. However, Kurosawa didn’t even see Orson Welles’s film until several years later.
4. During shooting, the cast approached Kurosawa en masse with the script and asked him, “What does it mean?” The answer Akira Kurosawa gave at that time and also in his biography is that the film is a reflection of life, and life does not always have clear meanings.
5. This was a very early use, perhaps the first mainstream use, of the hand held camera in the scenes where we follow different characters through the thick forest.
6. In the downpour scenes showing the Rashomon Gate, Kurosawa found that the rain in the background simply wouldn’t show up against the light gray backdrop. To solve this problem, the crew ended up tinting the rain by pouring black ink into the tank of the rain machine. The ink is clearly visible on the Woodcutter’s face towards just before the rain stops.
7. Even during high noon the parts of the forest that the crew needed to shoot in were still too dark. Rather than use a regular foil reflector, which did not bounce enough light, Kurosawa and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa opted to use a full-length mirror “borrowed” from Daiei’s costume department. The crew bounced light from the mirror through leaves and trees to soften it and make it look more like natural sunlight.
8. In his autobiography, Kurosawa recalled that one of the biggest problems his crew encountered while filming in the forest was that slugs kept dropping out of the trees onto their heads. The cast and crew had to constantly slather themselves with salt to keep the slugs off.
9. Akira Kurosawa asked frequent acting collaborator Toshirô Mifune to model his character’s movements after wildlife, particularly the lion. Kurosawa’s vision of how a lion was supposed to move was heavily influenced by the wildlife documentary work of husband-and-wife team Martin E. Johnson and Osa Johnson.