Mise-en-scene and RASHOMON

What did you notice about m-e-s in Rashomon? Were you persuaded or influenced in your reading of the film by the MacDonald reading? How deliberate did the use of light and dark seem to you? Are there shots where a character seemed to be placed in light or shadow to show a particular aspect of their nature? Are there shots where the filmmakers seemed to be interested to emphasize the dualistic nature of the characters?

Open or closed?

Would you characterize Rashomon as "open" or "closed"? Do the characters appear to inhabit the same world as the audience or a world created for them? What elements of m-e-s would you point to to make either case? Did the way the film was shot create a sense of openness or closedness? How about the use of locations? Do we see anyone in the film who is not connected to the story in some way?

A note on "authenticity"

One of the assumptions I made in selecting the films for the second part of the course is that each is striving for some kind of authenticity, in relation to truth, to historical representation, to character, and the preview questions reflect this assumption. Primarily, I am asking how the filmmakers succeed in realizing their visions. However, it maybe that some of the films fail for you in achieving the desired authenticity. In Rashomon, for example, maybe you think that one person is clearly lying. Maybe The Age of Innocence doesn't feel like a window onto 19th century New York. Maybe the characters in The Dark Knight and The Royal Tenenbaums never feel like anything but silly fictions.

In thinking about these films, feel free to flip the preview questions around and discuss what doesn't work for you in terms of m-e-s and authenticity.

Preview for RASHOMON (1950)

With Rashomon we begin the second set of films for this course and our broad theme here is "authenticity". In Rashomon a central question is the nature of "truth".

  • How is m-e-s used to both lend credibility to and raise doubts about each character's version of the attack and rape?
  • How is m-e-s also employed to signify or represent the moral universe of the characters?
  • For both of the above questions, try to make special note of specific shots or visual elements that you can point to in your answers.
  • Does it feel as if the characters inhabit a world of their own or one that they share with the audience? In other words, how open or closed does the film appear to you? How does that openness or closedness relate to the authenticity of their stories?