Amanda Okazaki Senior Seminar (Period 7) March 7, 2012 Rashomon Essay The story told in the film Rashomon, a 1950 film by Akira Kurosawa is bothsimple and yet at the same time complex, depending on the way the audience‟sknowledge serves to make conclusions. The way one perceives the information toldthroughout the different versions of the story serves as their own personal reality ofthe truth. When first watched, many different conclusions can be made upon the firstexamination, which create controversy of what the „real‟ resolution or truth is. ThisJapanese film revealsa primitive setting, which addresses the main plot and fourdifferent accounts of how the death of a samurai takes place. The Woodcutter, TheBandit, The Wife, and The Samurai all reveal their accounts of what took place,which are notably different from each other, and yet they all tell some forms of the„truth‟. The differences in the stories produce uncertainty and complications, whichallow the audience to analyze and to make up their own opinions to what they believeto be the truth. In the end, the film does not indicate which recount of the story is true,so the audience is left to ponder, as each account is depicted and equally realistic. In regards toward two men who have reviewed Rashomon; Roger Ebert a filmcritic and Errol Morris a filmmaker, they show to opposing views on the concepts oftruth and reality in this film. Errol Morris believes there is a single version of thetruth, and that all others are illusory or fabricated. For his interpretation to be appliedcorrectly to the film, it would mean that everyone perceives the same reality andshares the same information, at the same degree of depth. He is claiming to haveknowledge that there is a single truth, which agrees with Plato‟s theories. Truth andreality are both independent of the observations of people, and are therefore absoluteand objective. On the other side of the spectrum of truth and reality, where Ebertstands, is based more so on human interpretations. Perception bias concept isimpossible for humans to recall events that happened without a combination of theirown interpretation. Human beings tend to think that they reflect truth when they infact they more or less introduce their own version of reality into their life. He alsofeels that emotion is an essential factor that influences human‟s interpretation of
reality and how they perceive truth. People have different perspectives, andinterpretation toward the reality, which suggests that the truth is subjective, and thereis no singular universal truth. Ebert‟s views in relation to Rashomonare that each character is telling the truthof how the Samurai was murdered. In his film review Ebert states that, “People shouldsuspect the reality even what they think they have seen.”Even though all the charactersmay be exaggerating, it is still the truth of how they perceived the event of themurder. The most convincing way of knowing which is used is perception, Ebert‟sanalysis is most applicable as the four separate accounts are equally convincing whenthe audience first is exposed to them. Without additional information, the observer isforced into making a decision without a clear story because it is assumed that as theyare in court they have been sworn to the truth. Distinguishing what seems to be trueand the actual truth can be solved by testimony, however in the case of Rashomon wecan not always take the face value of what the witnesses are saying as they are not allcredible as each of the events is not completely confirmed by another recollection ofthe story. The context and expectations the audience has of who the killer was will alsoshape our own perceptions. Each character in the film has a different background, theway they are perceived is part of the context we view them in. Judgments are madewithout us being consciously aware, and these affect the expectations and the way thecharacters speak of the murder in their own way, how their selective perception playsa role in the unconscious mind enhances the perception of the event as the story of themurder is retold. The perception bias concept is impossible for humans to recallevents that happened without a combination of their own interpretation. Personalperception bias can shape and change the way we individually see an event, which isway the recollection of an event may not be the same as someone else‟s, it depends onwhat your attention was focused towards, this will adorn your own memory of whathappened. Human beings tend to think that they reflect truth when they actuallyintroduce their own version of reality.Our expectation plays an important role inshaping our perception; because we know the bandit has a history of crime, weassume that he is the one most likely to be responsible to be the killer. The culture andlifestyle of the wife seems fragile and naïve, she believes she has killed her husbandbecause her danger was in his body when she retold her story. The woodcutter being
witness only is narrating the story of what he believed he saw. The samurai tells thestory through his possessed wife‟s body, watching his wife‟s actions, he feels his andher reputation is gone so he kills himself out of dishonor by his wife. The mental map we all have inside us is shaped by our beliefs; these areanother factor in what influence our perception and the truth. Our beliefs affect theway and what we see. Being a personal form of our reality that includes our ideas ofwhat we know to be true and what is false, what is reasonable and what is not. Beinginternal, only we can personally know what we consider to be right and what we thinkis wrong. Belief is held to the individual and represents ourselves, it helps us becomeaware of where we stand in a situation, in the case of Rashomon it allows theaudience to understand the characters in more depth. Emotion is avitalinfluence that affects human‟s interpretation of reality andhow they perceive truth. People have different perspectives, interpretation towards thereality, which suggests that truth is subjective, and there is no singular universal truth.“Four testimonies that do not match. It is human nature to listen to witnesses anddecide who is telling the truth.” This technique is used very day, we use commonsense and our ability to interoperate to form opinions and perception, which inevitablyleads us to form knowledge. Emotion is also an essential factor in shaping perception,the stronger the emotional bond between you and the subject creates more selectivity,you will tend to focus more so on what you find to be reality. “Human beings areunable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk aboutthemselves without embellishing.” Being stubborn is a trait all humans hold, we liketo think we know better than each other, which leads to misinterpreted information orexperiences and ideas which have been filtered. Our perception can be defined and enhanced by our senses; it is what keeps usconnected to everything around our mind, the outside world and us, all linked as one.Ebert‟s views on perception are that people have different perspectives, andinterpretation toward the reality, which suggests that the truth is subjective, and thereis no singular universal truth.Human interpretations are internal and the truth is howwe see it to be, it accommodates to all our perceptions capabilities. In Rashomon,Kurosawa gives an interesting role to the audience, as he gives us the task of trying todetermine whom the actual murderer is thus revealing the truth. Unable to deduct who
it is through the given information, there audience is made to recognize that there isno actual objective truth and results in the acceptance of all the characters having theirstories considered truth.Words CitedLagemaat van de, Richard. Theory of Knowledge for the IB diploma.Cambridge University Press 2005. Textbook.Ebert, Roger. Chicago Suns-Times.Rashomon (1950).<http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20020526 /REVIEWS08/205260301/1023>.Web.