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  • 1. Jonghyun Choe Period 4 15 November 2011To what extent do you agree with the views of either Errol Morris or Roger Ebert with regard tothe film Rashomon? Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film, Rashomon, examines different accounts of an incidentexperienced by different characters: the samurai, the bandit, the wife and the woodcutter, whoexplain different stories of samurai’s death and the rape of his wife. This film reveals differentways of perception experienced by these four different characters, through their sight, sound,taste, touch and smell. As people have dissimilar ways of feeling and perceiving the world, it isoften possible for truth to vary and be inaccurate. We see the ideas of different views on truththrough opinions of two critics, Errol Morris and Roger Ebert on Rashomon. Although bothviewpoints seem to be plausible and supported, Errol Morris’ idea of ultimate truth and realityconnects better to Rashomon than Roger Ebert’s thought which claims that Rahomon can onlyprovide us with limited answer: there can be no definite answer driven out from this film. Roger Ebert makes an assertion for subjective reality where truth is relative and varies ineach individual. Believing that truth differs based on realm of consciousness, Ebert believes thatit is possible for people to possess multiple truths, gained by different perceptions and ways ofknowing. This becomes more evident when Ebert states that “all of the flashbacks are both trueand false” (Ebert: Rashomon Review). In addition, Ebert believes that humans have the motiveto lie when he states “it is unlike any of the original participants are lying for their ownadvantage, since each claims to be the murderer”. This supports the idea that humans at timescan distort the real stories and truth for their self purposes making “the stories radically to a
  • 2. disagreement” (Ebert: Rashomon Review). This claim becomes even clearer when Ebertdeclares that the woodcutter “is travelling into another realm of reality”, making the flashbacks“both true and false” (Ebert: Rashomon Review). Simply put, Ebert’s theory that subjectivereality can exist is supported in the film Rashomon where four different characters believe inmultiple truth and realities. Reasons for this can be due to multiple perceptions gained by eachcharacter, and their tendency to “lie” and being “unable to be honest with themselves aboutthemselves” through their process of perceiving. This contradicts Morris’s opinion of absolutetruth in Rashomon, where Morris believes that there can be no certain way to figure out aboutthe actual incident that happened from different recounts that contradict each other. While Ebert’s claim asserts that multiple truth can exist mutually at the same time, hispoint seems to be disproved by Errol Morris who considers of ultimate truth and reality whereonly one truth can exist. Morris does not believe in subjective reality “because just thinkingsomething does not make it so” (Interview with Errol Morris). This simple statement is furtherdiscussed in relation to Plato, who believes that knowledge can be only achieved throughjustification, truth and belief. Morris, who believes in the ultimate reality that there is onlyknowledge that can be said as truth, claims that truth is independent of our perceptualexperiences. He thinks of Rashomon as a story that is “about self interest, self deception,people imagining scenarios at variance with the truth” (Interview with Errol Morris). Althoughaccording to Morris it is impossible to draw a definite conclusion about the real murderer of theincident, Morris states that “truth exists, but people have a vested interest of not knowing it”(Interview with Errol Morris). This indicates that the characters in Rashomon are utilizingselective perception, using their perception to suit their needs rather than to tell of the actualtruth and reality. This contradicts Ebert’s viewpoint that multiple truths exist betweenindividuals because Morris believes that Rashomon is “not a movie but the subjectivity of truth”and that “people see the world differently”, in another word, truth is relative and thus allwitnesses are at fault for changing the testimonies (Interview with Errol Morris). This evidentlyshows us that Morris shares the same opinion as Plato that only one truth can exist.
  • 3. Furthermore, Morris’s viewpoint can be additionally supported more throughconnection with well renowned Greek philosopher, Plato. As mentioned from previousargument, Plato’s definition of knowledge is composed of: justified, true, belief. This indicatesthat first; there is only one truth that is eternal. Second, knowledge should be justified withhard evidence and from reasoning, and lastly, knowledge should be an idea that must bebelieved and truthful in order to be proved as knowledge. Although Morris’s idea may varyslightly from Plato, in that Morris only believes in ‘truth’, Morris states that “idea that there isno reality that truth is subjective, is foolish and unappetizing” (Interview with Errol Morris). Thisclearly demonstrates Morris’s viewpoint that there is only concrete distinction between whatcan be true or not; that truth is a black and white entity that cannot be affected by any externalfactors such as human misperception. Morris’s idea differs greatly from Ebert’s in that as anabsolutist, Morris’s belief accepts only the objective reality. In relation to the Rashomon film,Morris’s idea seems to be a better theory to follow because observing the case of the samurai’smurder, it is almost certain that he was killed by one person. Ebert’s assertion that accepts allfour dissimilar stories seems implausible, because there was one incident regarding the murder,thus one truth exists. We can relate Morris’s view on the scientific realism which is clearlyevident in Rashomon, where it would be proven that actual truth exists regardless of anyinterpretations made by our five senses. In reference to the views of perception and truth residing in the film Rashomon, bothcritics Roger Ebert and Errol Morris provide their opposing viewpoints on subjective reality andabsolute truth. Although it is possible for humans to have different perceptual experiences thusemphasizing the subjectivity of perception on recollection, known as the “Rashomon Effect”,Errol Morris offers a logical viewpoint that only one truth can exist. We can draw not a definitebut a concise conclusion from Morris’s viewpoint about Rashomon: truth is absolute. If truthcannot be proven from our experiences, coherence, experiences, we have to somehow discovertruth otherwise.
  • 4. Works Cited"Interview with Errol Morris." The Believer. Apr. 2004. Web. 17 Nov. 2011."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.