Gaze and responsibility in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon
Akira Kurosawa’s movie Rashōmon (1950) is traditionally referred to as a clear illustration of the subjectivity of human perception and memory. However, the notion of the so-called Rashōmon effect reflects only a superficial reading of Kurosawa’s film. It is argued, both from a historical and from a psychoanalytic point of view, that the filmmaker’s interpretation of the medieval Japanese story addresses two important distinctions, far beyond the reach of traditional psychological research: 1, the distinction between perception and gaze, and 2, the distinction between guilt and responsibility. It is further argued that in addressing these two distinctions, Rashōmon, upon its release in 1950, confronted the world (and not just the regimes of the Japanese Empire and the Nazis) with its responsibility for the atrocities of World War II.