Kristin Lowe Senior Seminar Period 6 Rashomon EssayTo what extent do you agree with the views of either Errol Morris or Roger Ebertwith regard to the film Rashomon? In 1950, Akiro Kurosawa directed the film, Rashomon, to analyze the topic ofperception, which is the process of understanding our environment by theinterpretation and organization of the five senses. This film is a Japanese murdermystery story that revolves around the death of a samurai and the rape of his wife, andincludes four characters, the samurai, the wife, the bandit, and the woodcutter. Everycharacter reveals their individual yet contradicting stories to the judge, the audience,which they have retrieved through their different perceptions of the crime that wascommitted. The connection of perception to this film forces arguments involving thedifference between truth and reality to surface. The two critics Errol Morris andRoger Ebert each view the topic of perception differently. Morris argues that truth isobjective, making reality objective for all. On the other hand, Ebert concludes thattruth and reality are subjective and therefore relative to each individual.AlthoughMorris believes there is an absolute truth to the crime committed in Rashomon, thereare multiple individual interpretations of the situation, making Ebert’s position ofsubjectivity of truth and reality the best fit for this film. Errol Morris argues that no matter how individuals interpret something, there isbut one absolute truth and reality is objective for all meaning that only one truth canexist. He states that he does “not believe that truth is subjective”, because “justthinking something does not make it so” (Interview with Errol Morris). Morris agreeswith Plato’s theory, which also states that although many different accounts or stories
Lowe 2in which people may perceive things differently, there is one absolute truth that exists.Again, Morris continues to disapprove that reality may be subjective by stating thatthe, “idea that there is no reality, that truth is up for grabs, or that truth is subjective, Ifind foolish and unappetizing” (Interview with Errol Morris). Therefore in Rashomon,there is an ultimate reality of the world even though how people individually perceivethings differs.For example, the audience is primarily lead to believe that thewoodcutter’s version of the crime is true because it is told from a third-person point ofview without any involvement. Later it is revealed that the woodcutter lied because hedid not want to be blamed for stealing the dagger, revealing that there is no onecriminal. In Rashomon, the viewer can see that there is not meant to be a conclusionof who the murderer is, but instead to recognize that there are four separateperceptions of the case. Yet, Morris still claims “there is such a thing as truth, but wehave a vested interest in not seeing it” (Interview with Errol Morris). In Morris’ casehe believes there is only one absolute truth, which brings about the argument that thecharacters were then using the selective perception. This refers to being able toperceive things in such a way thattendsspecifically to that individuals needs ratherthan observing actual reality. Therefore, if the characters have individual, subjectiveopinions on truth and reality, Ebert’s take on the subjectivity of perception is moredominant in the filmRashomon. On the opposite end of the spectrum of Errol Morris, Roger Ebert believes thereare multiple truths and that reality is not objective but relative. Due to the fact thatevery individual perceives a situation one way based on their realm of consciousness,all events beyond an individual’s perceiving conscious is not truth, as it does notexist. In this film, there were multiple eye-witness accounts of the same crime, yetevery story differed, illustrating subjectivity. For example, Ebert states, “all of the
Lowe 3flashbacks are both true and false” (Ebert: Rashomon Review). This illustrates thatmultiple truths can exist simultaneously where two individuals contain different truthsbecause their perceptions differ. Therefore, the four individual flashbacks can beconsidered true because each character believes what he perceives to be reality. Whenthe film director, Kurosawa, comments, “ They [Humans] cannot talk aboutthemselves without embellishing”, the four flashbacks can be considered false due tothe fact that it is each individual character’s modified version causing confirmationbias (Ebert: Rashomon Review). Also, the individuals, who, in fact, confessedtheyhad murdered the samurai, had no specific motive to lie. “It is unlike any of theoriginal participants are lying for their own advantage” (Ebert: RashomonReview).Ebert acknowledges that each of the“eyewitness accounts differ radically”(Ebert: Rashomon Review). This revealsthat not only does Ebert’s support for theidea of subjective reality in the film contradict Morris’ Platonic theory of absolutetruth, but it also illustrates the fact that relativism is better applied in Rashomon. Due to the fact that Kurosawa’s film Rashomon revolves around four differentcharacters perceptions, Ebert’s subjectivity is better applied because of his beliefs ofrelative reality and multiple truths.Kurosawa makes it clear that the stance of asubjective of reality is apparent because each character claims they murdered thesamurai, thus making it impossible for the audience to conclude who committed thecrime.The subjectivity of truth and reality are prominent in Rashomon by the fact thateach character believes his own selective form of truth and reality of the crime. Ergo,Ebert’s argument on how individuals perceive truth and reality in a subjective andrelative form best fits the differing perceptions of the crime in the film. Robert Ebert’s ideas of subjective reality and truth applies better that ErrolMorris’ Platonic theory of absolute truth and reality, seeing as there are multiple yet
Lowe 4contradicting accounts of the same incident.Although from the film, the audiencecannot seem to be able to solve the mystery of who truly committed the murder of thesamurai, each individual shares their honest perception of the events of the murderand the events preceding the murder.Therefore, Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film,Rashomon, the multiple accounts of truth and perception are best applied by RogerEbert’s belief of a subjective reality and a relative truth.
Lowe 5 Works Cited:“Interview with Errol Morris” http://www.believermag.com/issues/200404/?read=interview_morris“Ebert: Rashomon Review” http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20020526/REVIEWS08/205260301/1023