Kurosawa’s film Rashomon takes from Akutagawa’s short stories, Rashomon and In a Grove. On top of the combination of these two, Kurosawa amplifies his adaptation with the confession of the woodcutter and the adoption of the baby by the woodcutter. The place and the surrounding environment of the present time in the film are similar to the story Rashomon—a desolated and shabby structure which is named “Rashomon” in the midst of heavy rain. The scene, a shabby structure, ragged clothes, and conversation of the three people, reveals the social background when the story takes place—a turmoil time period. Usually, a turmoil age is a test to human nature. In the last scene, the theme of the film and story is the same but in different way of performing—in order to survive, morality has to be dismissed; everybody sins, sinners have no moral credits to judge other sinners. The major story of the film is taken from Akutagawa’s another short story In the Grove. The common fact is the death of a samurai. The three people who are involved—robber, samurai, and samurai’s wife, confess three different versions of the incident. The robber blames the woman (samurai’s wife)’s beauty seduced him to commit the crime. He insists that he did not want to kill the samurai. However, the woman made them to wrestle. Finally he killed the samurai in a fair wrestle. The samurai accused his wife’s infidelity. She followed the robber and persuaded the robber to kill him. The robber refused and let him to decide whether he want to kill his wife or not. Finally, the samurai committed suicide. The samurai’s wife said her husband despised her after she was raped by the robber. She killed her husband out of anger and shame. She also tried to commit suicide. From this story, the point is not about the truth; it is about how people make up story out of individual observation, understanding, and benefit. These three individuals described themselves as the victims and how they tried to preserve the morality in this incident. The morality that they said they preserved is the social norms in their time and culture.
One of the significant alterations is that the film has the confession of the woodcutter. In the story In the Grove, the mother of the samurai’s wife also spoke in front of the judge. The film director deleted this part probably because it is unnecessary to express the theme of the film. In the film, I think the director adds on the confession of the woodcutter for these purposes. First, the woodcutter revealed the truth. Although he lied in the first ground and was forced to confess after the servant (the listener) read that he deliberately hides the truth because he stole the dagger, his version is kind of convincing because he was not involved. From his confession, the cowardice and crude of the two men, robber and samurai, is exposed. The woman asked them to wrestle, but both men did not want to risk their lives. They even insulted the woman verbally. The woman is crafty. She finally motivated both men to wrestle for her. She is also not loyal to her husband because she is willing to follow either of them if one of them wins. Therefore, none of them followed the social norms which courage, integrity, dignity, and loyalty were valued at that time. Second, the confession of the woodcutter serves as the bridge between the two stories, Rashomon and In the Grove. The servant robbed the baby’s clothes and nobody shamelessly stop him. The servant did not guilt by what he did to an innocent baby because in order to survive, morality has to be dismissed; everybody sins, sinners have no moral credits to judge other sinners (just as what the story Rashomon tries to say). Anther significant alternation is the final scene of the film. The robber adopted the baby (probably he wants to relieve the guilt of his conscience) and he walked out of the Rashomon structure in a bright sunshine. Maybe the director wants to give hope to the audiences about humanity.
Since this film is taken in black and white, the manipulation of light and shadow is remarkably important in cinematography. Since most scenes are taken in the bamboo grove, the close-ups dramatically express the psychological process in each individual in each moment. Also, the shadow of bamboo on body and face beautify the shots as artistic effect. Some shots are taken by facing the sun directly, such as the robber sexually assaulting the woman, some shots are taken from the woman’s point of view. This design amplifies the audiences’ visual experience. In the first scene, the woodcutter is walking freely in the grove. The director took the shot in a distance, so that the audiences have a sense about the surrounding environment where the story takes place. The background music, Bolero in Japanese style, is in pace with the flow of the story. When dilemma happens or in dramatic situation, the music would stop so that the audiences can feel the tension and breathlessness of the situation.