“Rashomon” Lecture Notes

by Vered Arnon

I don’t remember the name of the professor who gave the “Rashomon” lecture. In fact, I don’t think I did catch her name in the first place. She spoke with a very rhythmic accent, giving her lecture a sedative quality. She talked about the technical aspects of film and screenplay. She also talked specifically about how these aspects interplay in “Rashomon”. She discussed the symbolism and significance. She even showed a film clip. She explained “Mise-en-scene”, cinematography, editing, and sound. But there was nothing she talked about, aside from the basic introduction to these four components of film, that wasn’t covered in the “Rashomon” book. In fact, the book gave a much more interesting, captivating presentation. The professor’s lecture seemed rather shallow and stiff. This film is a fascinating work of art. There is so much that she could have said about it, instead of just giving a cursory overview the way she did. Perhaps she felt that since her audience was composed of freshmen who presumably had never studied this media before, she had to keep the content of her lecture very basic and simple. But I was disappointed. She could have given a deeper discussion of symbolism and how it is used and interpreted in film. She could have been more specific about the power wielded in the editing room. She used very glib statements to slide over things that could have used more discussion, such as “as we look, we become accomplices” and “film is difficult to explain because it’s easy to understand”.

If I could ask her a question, since she is specifically an expert on German film, I would like to ask her if the use of the three different sequences in “Run Lola Run”, as different permutations of what could happen, is in any way comparable to the different accounts of events presented in “Rashomon”. If the director Kurosawa is subtly questioning reality, rather than objective truth, then what’s the difference between his film and one that is overtly questioning reality? Both films seem very existential to me.

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