I’ve been thinking a lot about privilege. There have been a lot of ‘woke’ people calling out the rich for being out of touch with the reality of the country’s current situation. 

The privileged may be out of touch, just as the poor are out of touch with the experiences of the rich. We can only taste what is served on our plate and probably have a whiff from the one across the table. How can someone who can call for takeout in an impulse line up for generic canned goods? Would someone who only drank coffee from a sachet differentiate robusta from arabica?

We widened the gap between the two ends of the spectrum with dissent. This is how rich the rich are. See that closet? That’s your entire house. That scholar walks several kilometers to get to school contrasts that brat who asks their driver if they can get milk tea on the way home. 

If all this is true: what do we do? How can we not pit against each other’s privilege and deficit? And what of the middle class? Their experiences oscillate across the entire spectrum, where are we situated in all this? The country’s social milieu became a crude narrative of injustice, suffering, poverty, and resilience. They even look at the last one with pride, like an armor, at every opportunity to brag that, we, the Filipino people, can withstand anything. We are resilient. If we helped each other out will it be enough? If only there was a structured system that bridges this gap… if only such a thing exists. 

Oh wait, it does.

Short Thoughts on Kurosawa’s Adaptation of Akutagawa

On the surface of Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Rashomon, it may seem like we are merely presented conflicting accounts of a murder. The film is a loose adaptation of two Ryunosuke Akutagawa short stories: In a Grove and Rashomon. Although the plot comes from In a Grove, the significant contribution of the titular story is the narrative device and the psychological and sociological state of the film’s characters. The woman and the servant merged into one ethically confused character, the woodcutter.  

There are seven simple statements, written as if pleading for the readers to believe their version of the story, with relevant inconsistencies. Akutagawa gave scarce descriptions, giving readers the characters’ absolute versions of the facts. Kurosawa bridges this scarcity with cinematic narration and possible clues to what transpired that afternoon.

© 1951 RKO Radio Pictures Inc.

Egotism and pride fueled the inconsistencies in the narrative which reveal more about their characterization and not the actual events. No one in the film shifts the blame – each one admitting accountability to the murder and trying to put themselves in the best possible light. The wife thinks that killing her husband would preserve her virtue, the husband gave one last attempt to maintain his dignity by suicide, and the bandit maintaining his notriety. But then comes the interruption of the last testimony, the woodcutter’s. I believe he has a pivotal role in the crime or that he has a self-serving agenda like concealing the fact that he stole the dagger. The fact that it is unresolved is the functional core of the film. Viewers could analyze the cues given by Kurosawa such as camera angles, lighting, length of statements, and body language. Kurosawa’s adaptation could either be a homage of a rebellion against Akutagawa’s withholding of a resolution.  I found a valuable academic article about this by Redfern, which I will reference below. Here is my attempt at tabulating the events that transpired.

If we follow the generalization that there is a protagonist in every story, I’m safely assuming that it is whoever killed the husband because everyone wants to be the killer. I’m taking the cynicism from the film as something we should exercise during these trying times. Fake news are everywhere, time to do some research and reading.

Film:

Kurosawa, Akira, director. Rashomon. RKO Radio Pictures, 1951.

Further Reading:

Redfern, Nick. “Film Style and Narration in Rashomon.” Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, vol. 5, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 21–36., doi:10.1080/17564905.2013.10820070.