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.
The aim of the psychoanalytic cure is here considered as the movement which targets the subject’s assumption of its existential guilt, i.e., the guilt resulting from not living up to its destiny as inscribed by the Other. Through the psychoanalytic work the patient is confronted with the unconscious inscription of his being, as well as with the guilt resulting from not being able to meet this inscription. In this way, gradually, the preconditions are laid down for a process of mourning, i.e., for a process of disidentification, that may provoke anxiety. Beyond the assumption of existential guilt, desire is articulated more freely, which enables a different positioning of the subject towards the other, towards love, towards knowledge.