Of Samurai and Dark Knights

Resulting from a guest lecture I gave a few months ago on 9/11 and representations of evil, I have been invited to introduce screenings of two films this week, which have been programmed as a ‘superhero double bill.’ The appearance of last year’s phenomenal The Dark Knight on the schedule will probably surprise no one. Combining it on a single bill with Kurosawa’s arthouse classic Rashomon, however, is to my mind a more ‘creative’ choice: I doubt I am the only one to be initially somewhat baffled by the thought that Rashomon is in any way related to the superhero movie genre.

But although Rashomon‘s reputation is mostly based on the way it constitutes narrative as subjective, with its contradictory accounts of a single event, what it seems to have in common with Nolan’s The Dark Knight is the way in which it offers competing ideas about the nature of reality. Speaking more broadly, the different people talking about the different eye-witness accounts bring into sharp relief the absence of a single, trustworthy perspective on the world, which is in many ways one of the foundations of the superhero genre as a whole.

Both films also, each in its own way, break with the moral and aesthetic conventions of the genre from which they have emerged. Where Rashomon offers a deconstruction of traditional Japanese samurai stories, The Dark Knight is far more interested in the slippery slope one encounters when confronted with chaos and nihilism. So whatever the original reasons for programming these two films together on a single bill, I guess there is some basis for a somewhat cohesive introduction…

Superhero double bill @ Crea Amsterdam

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