In this adaptation of the Japanese film Rashomon, a young monk leaves town to seek his father's counsel after being disturbed by the murder trial testimony of the bandit Singh Khan, the wife of the deceased warlord, and a shaman who conjures up the warlord's spirit. Along the way, he encounters a poor man who testified at the trial, and the two take refuge in an abandoned burial tunnel during a storm. They are met by an old beggar who joins in their lively conversation about the trial. In vivid detail, each story is witnessed on screen as it's told from the bandit's, the wife's and the warlord's perspectives, all riddled with bias and personal agenda. In the end, the young monk is left to determine what meaning is of true consequence not only in this murder trial, but in choosing to continue on his monastic path.
This movie has been made to celebrate the virtue of Lord Buddha's teachings. See more »
Competent remake of "Rashomon" but with a few WTF flaws
"At the Gate of the Ghost" (2011) is an ambitious remake of Kurosawa's incomparable classic "Rashomon" (1950) which itself is an adaptation of 2 short stories "In a Grove" and "Rashomon" published in 1922. If you haven't seen the original "Rashomon", just take my word for it: it's the Japanese equivalent of the American "Citizen Kane". Like Kane, Rashomon jump started a new breed of film exploring the fractured narrative where a story is told from different, often conflicting, points of view. The ultimate question being raised: is there such thing as absolute truth? Or is the entire universe itself a subjective experience which each individual must define?
That said, let's get back to "At the Gate of the Ghost". Deliberately, this film is presented from a very overt, biased, Buddhist perspective. The opening titles say so. That sort of shatters the objective lens through which we perceive the characters' subjective nature. And for the first 20 minutes (which I hated so much I almost ejected this DVD into the trash), we get a ton of bizarre Buddhist sermons with convoluted fortune cookie catchphrases splattered across the screen to the sounds of operatic singing. Perhaps the meaning was lost in translation to English, but I found myself getting a headache while trying to make any sense of these slogans, for example (this is a direct quote), "One should strive to act in a way that is true to the way things are, that accords with the underlying truth of things."
WTF? I've heard more logical statements from the Bush administration.
But let's say you make it past the first 20 minutes. That's when things start to get really good. Following the first 20 minutes which amount to an unnecessary subplot about our hero, a young Buddhist monk who walks around observing his family's hypocrisies with a look of extreme constipation, the real gist of the movie kicks in when he finds himself in a cave talking to 2 other lost souls who have ducked in out of the rain.
Acclaimed Thai actor Pongpat Wachirabunjong (playing the role of the unscrupulous undertaker) immediately livens up the production with his larger-than-life portrayal of a disgusting, twisted misanthrope whom you can't help but love. Mutually distrustful of each other, the 3 men begin to talk about crime & punishment, and then they begin discussing the bizarre details of a murder trial.
They recount the witness testimonies, the facts, the opinions and ultimately the judgment that had just taken place, and through these different accounts we get drawn in to the mystery of wherein lies the truth. Each testimony radically contradicts the others. We hear from the Woodcutter who found the body, the Investigator who apprehended the Suspect, the Suspect who proclaims his innocence, the Wife of the victim who has a different story yet, and finally a very cool, stylish and creepy testimony from the murdered man himself.
One area where this film outshines the original "Rashomon" (through no fault of Kurosawa) is in the extreme, glorious use of colors. The visuals are really quite stunning. So in the end I do recommend this film, even to the Rashomon curmudgeons like me who say nothing will ever touch the original. Certain scenes are absolutely magical in their hi- definition glory, much like something you might expect from the modern Chinese master director Zhang Yimou ("Hero", "House of Flying Daggers"). I definitely count "At the Gate of the Ghost" as well worth the price of admission.
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