rashomon scene analysis

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Chris Higgins
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I have chosen to analyse a scene from the film Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa. I will be discussing in particular the scene where the Woodcutter wanders through the woods and discovers the body of the samurai. This scene is vital as we are introduced to the scenario which will be the focus of the rest of the movie.
Kurosawa utilizes a number of interesting techniques that contribute to the film’s experimental nature, which I will be discussing in this analysis.

The establishing shot of this scene is a low-angle shot of the sun shining through the forest canopy. The camera appears to be following the sun through the forest by means of a tracking shot, providing us with the sense of motion. The camera then cuts to a close-up of an axe slumped over a man’s shoulder – we naturally assume this is the Woodcutter, as he had mentioned moments before in the previous scene getting wood in the mountains.
Among the other shots used in this scene are a high-angle shot where the camera moves slowly to follow the Woodcutter; a shot where the camera tilts downwards as the Woodcutter passes by; a very unusual low-angle panning shot of the Woodcutter walking across a plank; a few more low-angle shot showing the sky and tops of the trees, and a few close-ups of the Woodcutter from the back.

The music in the scene grows louder and more dramatic as the Woodcutter passes through the forest, adding to the dramatic tension. The shot where the Woodcutter discovers the hat is interesting because our attention is drawn immediately to the hat, as opposed to the Woodcutter, even though the hat is closer to the camera. This is because the Woodcutter, in his dark clothing, is camouflaged amongst the leaves. The music changes to a more mystical tone, and at once we recognise the hat as something that’s very important. As the scene is shot in a completely natural environment, there are very few props required, and the only props that we do see are in the form of ‘clues’

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