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Rashomon, Another Adaptation

Rashomon, Another AdaptationRashomon, Another Adaptation

Iranian theater director, dramaturge, playwright, author and actor Reza Kouchakzadeh, 41, has adapted ‘Rashomon’ for stage.

‘Rashomon,’ is a 1915 story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927), the father of Japanese short stories. It is also a 1950 feature film by Japanese film director and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998). The story is now adapted into a two-actor tragic romance, performed by Amir Mohammadi and Nazanin Ahmadi, according to Tiwall (tiwall.com), a local website on cultural events.

The setting described in the story Rashomon inspired both Kurosawa and Kouchakzadeh to bring out their own adaptations and name them after the original work.

Rashomon is perhaps Akutagawa’s most famous work. Like nearly all of his best writings, the story was drawn from an earlier literary source, the folktale collection ‘Konjaku Monogatari,’ a large body of tales composed during the Heian period (794-1184), when Chinese influences, especially Buddhism, were at their zenith in Japan.

The collection was compiled in the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the beginning of the feudal era, in which succeeding warrior governments, rather than the emperor, dominated the country politically and militarily.

  Inspiring Setting

Rashomon is set in the end of the 12th century. Because of the eclipse of imperial power, the city of Kyoto, along with its largest and once regal Rashomon Gate, constructed 400 years earlier, has fallen into serious neglect and disrepair. Faded Buddhist religious images and objects, once attached to the high gate, are scattered on the ground in heaps like firewood. The opposition of high versus low and, by extension, noble versus base serves as a template for the story.

The original story is about a desperate lowly servant, recently fired, in a survival challenge. He tries to decide between noble and dishonest ways of life, when he finds a woman stealing hairs from the dead in order to survive. Her rationalization of what she’s doing becomes the occasion for him to rob the woman of her robe and disappear.

Kurosawa borrows the title and setting from Akutagawa’s story. But the plot and characters of his film are actually based on ‘In a Grove,’ another short story by the writer, presenting three varying accounts of the murder of a samurai. Each account simultaneously clarifies and obfuscates what the reader knows about the murder, eventually creating a complex and contradictory vision of events that brings into question humanity’s ability or willingness to perceive and transmit objective truth.

But the play ‘Rashomon’ which opens today, August 7, in Tehran at 7 pm, is a different adaptation bringing in again another of Akutagawa’s short stories ‘Kesa and Morito’ and combining it in the dramatic setting of the original Rashomon.

Rashomon, a 70-minute play, is a sad love story, based on one of the best deconstructions of love written by the great Japanese writer. The play will run through August 29 at Qashqai Hall of Tehran City Theater.

The play is in the form of two monologues by the only two characters Kesa and Morito. Samurai Morito is contemplating murder, he plans to kill a man whom he does not hate. The man is kesa’s husband, Morito’s lover, towards whom he feels no anger now, but kill him he must.

But does Morito really love Kesa, he questions himself. His love for Kesa is divisible, before and after she got married and yet Morito thinks his love was a sentimental embellishment. He remembers Kesa vividly and is tortured with discontent. He asks himself, “Do I really love her?”

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