As an early work from one of the pioneers of world cinema – Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa – Rashomon is a movie of ideas first and foremost. There is little room for subtext here. Matters of truth and human nature are debated in an anguished, grandiose acting style that can be jarring to contemporary, Western eyes. Rashomon takes place in the woods of 11th-century Japan, where a bandit (Toshiro Mifune) encounters an aristocrat and his wife. He rapes the woman and kills her husband but is later caught and brought before a court, where everyone involved gives conflicting testimonies about the crime. Rashomon‘s true value is visual, as Kurosawa frames each image with a painter’s care (indeed, he began his career by studying painting at an art school in the West). The dappled sunlight he captures through the forest’s leaves is deceptively idyllic, while the torrential rain that dominates the opening and closing scenes more appropriately matches the overall mood of despair. Perhaps the reason much of the talking in Rashomon feels unnecessary – particularly the moralizing between the woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who finds the husband’s body and a priest (Minoru Chiaki) – is because the picture’s strongest moments play like a silent film. Each of the reenactments of the crime itself could be taken from an early melodrama, with the three players taking turns playing the villain and victim depending on who is telling the tale. It has often been noted how much Kurosawa was influenced by the art of the West, whether it was his borrowing of Shakespeare for plot or his nod to the American Western with The Seven Samurai (itself remade by Hollywood as The Magnificent Seven). Yet Rashomon also reveals Kurosawa’s own influence, especially on the filmmakers behind the recent rash of Japanese horror. The slain husband’s testimony is given by a medium, and her guttural writhing about on the floor of the court is as spooky as anything seen in The Grudge or Ringu.