Walls, Jan. (2016). From Konjaku and Bierce to Akutagawa to Kurosawa: Ripples and the evolution of Rashomon. In Blair Davis, Robert Anderson, & Jan Walls (Eds.), Rashomon effects: Kurosawa, Rashomon, and their legacies (pp. 11‒18). New York, NY: Routledge.
Matsumura, Janice. (2016). Rashomon as a twelfth-century period picture and an Occupation period social critique. In Blair Davis, Robert Anderson, & Jan Walls (Eds.), Rashomon effects: Kurosawa, Rashomon, and their legacies. New York, NY: Routledge.
Horvat, Andrew. (2016). Rashomon perceived: The challenge of forging a transnationally shared view of Kurosawa’s legacy. In Blair Davis, Robert Anderson, & Jan Walls, Rashomon effects: Kurosawa, Rashomon, and their legacies (pp. 45‒54). New York, NY: Routledge.
The Rashomon effect shows up in many intellectual undertakings that deal with contested interpretations of events or with disagreements and evidence for them, or with subjectivity/objectivity, memory, and perception. But Rashomon may have found its most fertile ground earlier first in anthropology and later in communication studies, sociology, and social psychology. Eventually it arrived in the world of jurisprudence and is now found in epistemology. None of this detracts from the craft of the filmmakers, who (following Tykwer’s remark quoted in note 6) are negotiating an audience’s relation to the transition among various narratives, while trying to keep their emotional commitment unimpaired.
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For greater clarity, we can now say there is a “strong” Rashomon effect; for example the Dziekanski case has all the necessary elements just as in the film, and also involved three narratives or more. But to acknowledge the way this old film has been creeping into common thought and speech, there is also a “weak” Rashomon effect, for example in the wrongful dismissal case mentioned above; it had the other necessary elements yet unfolded with only two narratives, two accounts, two plausible and unreconciled explanations.
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This unintended death led to a trail of official police notes, reports, and statements, which show inconsistencies and changes over time, ultimately revealing a form of the Rashomon effect. All of this recorded detail and oral communication emerged in a 2008 Commission of Enquiry into this incident, because the death occurred in police custody and was probably caused by use of a conducted electrical shock weapon, known as a Taser. Those changes and inconsistencies in their narrative accounts were the reason that the attorney general initiated a series of trials of the policemen, six years after that night, trials based on the charge that these four men had cooperated (colluded) with one another to construct a common narrative that was intended to mislead official enquiries, particularly while they were testifying under oath. If they had done so, the court would decide that they had committed perjury, lying under oath—a serious offence. This enquiring and explaining gave rise to a rippling outward of differing versions of the truth about this brief episode, first on the night of Dziekanski’s death and the morning after, second in the routine required investigations and official reports in the following days, third after viewing a short video filmed by a witness on the spot (but released to the public only 30 days afterward), fourth in stages of an official enquiry into Tasers involving sworn testimony from these four officers, fifth in their perjury trials that began in 2013 and continued through 2015, and sixth in the legal case brought against the police force by the widow of an officer very closely associated with the Dziekanski affair, who committed suicide six years after the airport incident. This layered complexity can be better understood through the frame of the Rashomon effect, although after eight years this affair has turned the Rashomon effect upside down.
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If the Rashomon effect appears on the level of very private conversations (as in the film, under the gate), it also appears on public stages. In the Supreme Court of British Columbia, trials began in 2013 of four police officers from Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In October 2007 these RCMP officers had hurriedly arrived on scene, confronted, and then caused the sudden death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, in the airport at Vancouver. His accidental enclosure in the secure international area of the airport, which lasted from the afternoon into the middle of the night, led to the death of this unnoticed 40-year-old adult man who spoke no English. He was coming to visit his mother and perhaps stay in Canada to work, passing through the airport like thousands of similar immigrants every year. His sense of being neglected, and being unable to exit, probably led to his agitated movements, occasional shouts in Polish (by that time all the interpreters had gone home), and dramatic and erratic gestures, augmented probably by his inability to smoke, and perhaps dehydration, or lack of sleep, or all three. He picked up and brandished a chair, he picked up and waved a stapler. But we shall never know what he was thinking. He died a few minutes later.