Rashomon Essay


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Rashomon Essay

  1. 1. Honori Yamada Senior Seminar 4 November 15, 2011To what extent do you agree with the views of either Errol Morris or Roger Ebert with regard totheir views of truth and perception in the film Rashomon? Perception is the state of awareness through the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, andsmell. Within perception, it is broadly composed of two elements of sensation and interpretation.Since interpretation differs for each individual, it can be clearly stated that different peopleperceive differently due to their experiences and their five senses. Ergo, it further makes it clearthat interpretations aredifferent from sensation, or what “is provided by the world” (Lagemaat87). Rashomon, a film directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1915, is prominently known for adebatable topic that portrays truth versus perception. In Rashomon, four characters of thewoodcutter, bandit, wife, and the samurai describes in thorough detail of what each of themperceived of the murder of the samurai. From all accounts, there weretwo points which everyoneagreed upon;firstly, the wife of the samurai was raped by the bandit in the forest and secondly,the samurai was murdered.However, besides the two matching points, all four charactersstrangely explained different accounts. The difference in how each character explained their firsteye-witnessed stories fosters the audience to investigate the mysterious movie crime.Two menwho hold relatively opposite points of views on the truth and reality spectrum discuss in regardsto Rashomon. Errol Morris, who is an absolutist, believes that there is only one truth and thattruth is objective. Thus, Morris would most likely state that truth can never be determined fromthe four witnesses since each reason were different. However Roger Ebert, who is a relativist,believes that with reason, anyone can tell a truth and that truth is subjective. Thus, Ebert wouldmost likely state that truth can be revealed by examining all four accounts. Although Ebert‟spoint of view about truth and reality can in a way relate to Rashomon, the falsity in reaching theabsolute truth within the four witnesses portrays Morris‟ view on how through perception,emotion, and reason, an absolute truth cannot be discovered. Morris‟ viewpoint is similar to Plato‟s viewpoint in which they both agree that truth isabsolute and that there is only one truth. Morris defines truth as a “…continual process oflooking at and looking for evidence, trying to figure out what the evidence means.” (TheBeliever) This clearly indicates how Morris believes that evidence is the key to justifying truth,not motive. In Rashomon, Morris would state that none of the four witnesses‟ reasons arereliable since their reasons were all different. Moreover, different motives arose from the impactof uncertain perception. Morris believes that perception can at times be deceiving and thus,people should not completely rely merely on perception. Furthermore, Morris suggests thatpeople should not believe in what they perceive since he supports the theory of scientific realism.He believes that “everything that you see has been controlled by some central authority” (TheBeliever) and that “the world exists as an independent reality and it is very different from theway we perceive it” (Lagemaat 100). However, simply because Morris does not believe any ofthe reasons does not mean he does not believe in truth. In fact, Morris believes that“there is sucha thing as truth, but we have a vested interest in not seeing it, in avoiding it” (The Believer) due 1
  2. 2. Honori Yamada Senior Seminar 4 November 15, 2011to ultimate reality. In other words, Morris believes there is truth in the crime, but it would bemerely impossible to find the truth without having evidence. However, Ebert would argue against Morris since Ebert believes that reason is the key tofinding truth. By examining Plato‟s theory of knowledge equals justified, truth, and belief, Ebertwould state that motive can be justified as truth. In other words, Ebert‟s point of view supportsthe idea of how people need a reason to believe something. Thus, Ebert would agree with theidea that seeing is believing if there is reason and explanation. In Rashomon, since Ebert believesthat it is “human nature to listen to witnesses and decide who is telling the truth” (Ebert),hewould most likely examine and accept all four witnesses‟ perception and emotions and thenfurther judge for the best reason. Although by using Ebert‟s view, an accurate truth can never becertain since he depends on other people‟s ambiguous perception and emotion, this system ismostly used in today‟s society. For examplein trials, a judge would simply make a verdictthrough group consensus amongst the juries.Similarly, Ebert believes that sufficient experiencesand data through inductive reasoning, or going from particular to general, is the best way todetermine truth (Lagemaat 120). As a result, Ebert‟s point of view can also be reasonable inregards to Rashomon‟s crime since it is more ethical as Ebert‟s idea focuses more onfinding themotive for a crime. Despite the fact that Ebert‟s idea is used more frequently in real life, Morris wouldfurther argue that the importance is not to find the reason, but to find the actual truth. Morriswould argue that in the film, the actual truth cannot be determined through examining otherpeople‟s perception and emotion since both ways of knowing have limitations of uncertainty.Contrasting to Ebert, Morris would go against the idea that seeing is believing. Morris believesthat “images are not reality” (The Believer)since each individual obtains different mental mapsand thus people should not believe what they perceive. These mental maps further cause peopleto make different interpretations from what they actually perceive. One example of how mentalmaps cause people to make inaccurate interpretation is through expectation (Lagemaat 90). Sincepeople already have mental maps, they „expect‟ to see specific results, and thuspeople caninterpret wrongly. Going against Ebert‟s idea that motive can be justified, Morris would rebuttalby stating that one cannot find the truth since one can neverknow if it is true. Furthermore,Morris would conclude by stating that that truth of the crime in Rashomoncan never be revealedthrough the use of evidence, reason, and limited perception. Since Ebert‟s viewpoint of examining truth through motive, emotion, and perception canresult to high uncertainty, Morris‟ viewpoint of the impossibility in resolving the truth inRashomon best suits in conclusion to the film. Since the general examining of reason,emotion,and perception vary within each individual, truth cannot be dependent to any of these aspects. Inrelation to Rashomon, there were four different first-eye witnesses which each clearly showedhigh uncertainty. Ergo, like Morris would agree, truth is independent from motive and belief andthat finding the absolute truth of the crime in Rashomon would merely be impossible without 2
  3. 3. Honori Yamada Senior Seminar 4 November 15, 2011evidence. Today, a problem faced in societyis how most decisions and statements are madebased on Ebert‟s motive view. This can cause people to become unconsciously unaware of theeveryday misinterpretations and inaccurate decisions they make. Work Cited:Lagemaat van de, Richard.Theory of Knowledge for the IB diploma.Cambridge University Press 2005.Textbook.“Interview with Errol Morris.” Interview by Errol Morris., The Believer Apr. 2004. Web.Ebert, Robert. “Rashomon :: Rogerebert.com :: Great Movies.” Rogerebert.com :: Movie Reviews, Essays and the Movie Answer Man from Film Critic Roger Ebert., 26 May 2002. Web. 17. Nov. 2011. 3