The interstitial feminine and male dominance in Rashōmon

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Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, ISSN: 1756-4905, Vol: 7, Issue: 2, Page: 113-132

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Erik R. Lofgren
Informa UK Limited
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences; Absent presence; gender equity; Japan; Kurosawa Akira; rape; tomoe; Film and Media Studies; Japanese Studies
article description
Kurosawa Akira’s 1950 film Rashōmon is frequently understood as an exploration of truth in the face of four irreconcilably conflicting testimonies. Frequently missing from the critical conversation is the originary crime of rape committed against the wife which is an absent presence in the film: despite its suppression, we are keenly aware of its essential role in driving the narrative and its simultaneous effacement from what we see on the screen. The trace it leaves exists in, and because of, the historical context of Article 14 in the Japanese constitution, yet this promise of gender equity in Japan was not achieved in Rashōmon. This unrealized promise provides one avenue for apprehending the rape’s implications. Linguistic intimations and visual hints, subtle yet omnipresent in the male narratives that seek to occlude the wife’s tale of rape, ask the audience to consider the role of the wife and the crime against her in the face of a stifling phallocractic order that seeks not liberation but the status quo in which the male narratives are dominant. In this way, the visual and linguistic confront the sexual power dynamics at play in Rashōmon and offer both a record of the difficult struggle gender equality will face, and an intimation that the struggle might succeed.