My latest published book is an e-book version of my story Boxing Day 1975. This story is written in the Rashomon style. This is where the same events are told and retold from the prospective of different characters, two or more. My story is about a family watching the Boxing Day film, on television, in 1975. They all have a very different reaction to the film, reflecting the changings times of 1975. The film they are watching is One Million Years BC.
The style/effect is named after the 1950 Japanese film Rashomon, where a murder is seen from the prospective of four different witnesses who all have a very different view of what happened. It has also been called the Unreliable Witness and has been linked to real-life court trials.
I’ve never seen Rashomon. I first came across Rashomon style by watching a BBC television play in the early 1980s (unfortunately I cannot remember the name of it). It told the story of a rape from the prospective of a wife who was raped, her husband, who witnessed the rape, and a stranger, who did or did not rape her. The wife blames herself for being raped in front of her husband. The husband is angry that his wife has sex with another man in front of him. The stranger feels used by the husband and wife in a kinky sex game. I feel uncomfortable writing this description even now, it was a very questionable story with some questionable attitudes to rape. But the style of it fascinated me, three different characters with three different views of the same event.
I tried using this style in my writing. At first, I wrote short dramas where three different characters narrated the same event, sometimes fictional and sometimes real historical events described by fictional characters (Boxing Day 1975 is very much in this style). But over the years I have adapted and developed my own take on the Rashomon style. I have written several stories where characters react to the same event but not at the same time. One character will experience the first part of the story/event, another character (or more than one) will experience the middle part of the story/event, and yet another character will experience the end of it. I will tell a story, moving from one character to the next, each one only seeing their view of the events. I do enjoy writing in this style, I can explore how an event affects different characters and I can show how people often do not have the full picture of what is happening around them.
Moving Pictures was the first time I used this style, it is set over one evening with each section taking place after the previous one. Each character has such little insight into what the other ones are feeling and doing; they are there in their own little world, unaware of how their actions will affect the other characters.
Saying all this, Boxing Day 1975 did not start off as a Rashomon style story; I originally wrote it as a flash fiction story that only saw the events from one character’s point of view. A friend read it and suggested that I expand it and include other characters’ points of view. Her advice sharked my imagination and I set about rewriting it. Doing so gave me the chance to explore some other issues too. 1975 was a time that was culturally interesting; things were beginning to change, with the women’s movement, Black rights and gay liberations. But also things were staying very much the same; just watch some television from then to see how patriarchal, sexist, racist and homophobic society was.
My own memories of watching One Million Years BC are still very vivid. It was the big blockbuster film on television that Boxing Day night. My mother, my father, my sister and I sat together in our sitting room to watch it on our colour television, while our dog slept in front of the fire unnoticed. During the film my father and sister argued about whether humans and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time; I was puzzled by there being no dialogue, just a lot of grunting, and at the end of it my mother announced, “That was rubbish.” She was right.
Edited by Drew Payne
To add image