This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!
At the Gate of the Ghost
As soon as I saw that this film was an adaptation of Rashomon, I knew I wanted to see it. Now, knowing that some statements need to be made: Firstly, there mere fact that it builds its narrative on a great skeleton is not enough to make or break it. It also bears noting that even Kurosawa’s version was based on earlier Japanese texts so the opportunity to create new renditions of the tales exist all the time, and doesn’t really fit into any perceived “scourge of remakes” complaints one might have. The same goes with Hitchock’s films as he dealt almost exclusively in literary adaptations. Any other asides to these effects are likely covered in my fanboy series, so I shall proceed.
What makes a new, transplanted version of a known classic tale either work or not usually has to do with what’s done to make the story particular to the new locale and how well it embodies the spirit of the original narrative rather than how dogmatically it sticks to the script. The new locale is incorporated quite well, on the surface turning a Shinto priest into a Buddhist monk might seem a superficial change, that analysis would be too reductive. It would discount the connection between religion and national identity far too much, especially considering the period in which this film is set (16th Century Thailand).
The other thing this film does well is that it quickly inserts an artfully rendered, character-building montage so that the monk’s inner-turmoil is explained and we get a sense of him and what he sees his duties as. At the start of the film he makes a difficult decision. We then see all that factored into the aforementioned decision and the bulk of the film is about the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak.
As with any tale based on Rashomon, or of a similar construction, much of the success hinges of the perspective and execution of the varied interpretations of an incident from different points of view. The wildly variegated versions delivered here are nearly flawless told and very well-executed with fantastic acting throughout.
If you have not seen Rashomon I would, of course, recommend you see that first. However, whether you have or have not, I think this alternate take is one that is likely to find many fans of its own as it is a rather gripping, evocative and emotionally charged version in its own right.