Geun Ho Lee Senior Seminar Period 4 November 13, 2011 Mr. Clover Rashomon Essay Rashomon is a film directed by Akira Kurosawa directed in 1950. Unlike itsprecedents, it has opened up a new topic to be discussed through films: perception. Theconcept of perception is the process of humans in understanding the environment aroundthem through interpretation using their five basic senses, the sight, sound, smell, touch, andtaste. Kurosawa, in particular, points out how perception can cause conflicts among humansthrough his film. In his film, a crime, in which a samurai was killed, occurred in a forest, andthere are four witnesses to the crime. None of the characters agree on what happened. Thebandit, Tajomaru, claims that he killed the samurai because he wanted the samurai’s wife thatafter he raped her, he fought against the samurai on the request of the wife to decide whoreally wins the wife. The samurai’s wife claims that after Tajomaru has raped her, he left thescene. And out of the guilt in being raped by a man other than her husband, she says that shepleaded the samurai to kill her. However, the samurai ignored her and out of rage, the wifekills the samurai. According to the samurai, who is brought to testimonial through spiritualmedium, he has committed a suicide after Tajomaru raped the wife. Lastly, the woodcuttertestifies that the samurai was killed by Tajomaru after the wife taunted the two men to fight tosettle her for the winner. These four different testimonies of four different witnesses to thecrime bring out arguments of truth and reality that can be seen from the critics Errol Morrisand Roger Ebert. In regard to these arguments, Morris concludes that there is one absolutetruth and an objective reality to this crime, whereas Ebert believes that truth and reality aresubjective hence are relative to individuals. Simply put, Morris states that there is one truththat exists regardless of perception differences, while Ebert states that truth and reality issolely dependent on perception. Although both views are supported by the film, Ebert’s ideaof subjective truth corresponds better with Rashomon than Morris’ idea of one absolute truth,
Geun Ho Lee Senior Seminar Period 4 November 13, 2011 Mr. Cloverbecause Kurosawa’s primary focus in this film is to convey the importance of understandingperception differences. Errol Morris claims that there is only one truth to who killed the samurai in the forest,regardless of the different accounts of the four witnesses of the crime scene. He clearly pointsout his view on the idea “that truth is up for grabs, or that truth is subjective” is “foolish andunappetizing” idea (Interview with Errol Morris). He further comments on the film by sayingthat “the claim that everybody sees the world differently is not a claim that there’s no reality.It’s a different kind of claim” (Interview with Errol Morris). From this, it is very evident thatMorris believes that there is one truth and reality whether people see them or not. This relatesto the theory of selective perception, which states that people intuitively filter out informationthat they do not wish to perceive from the reality. Then, he goes on to comment that “it ispretty damn clear” what really happened at the end, implying that the audiences know whathappened, because it is absolutely true that the samurai was killed, so they know that there isa killer (Interview with Errol Morris). So, Morris claims that the absolute truth providesknowledge in Rashomon. However, Roger Ebert and Akira Kurosawa believe otherwise. They claim that truthand reality are subjective, as the four witnesses of the murder demonstrate four differenttruths of the reality they have perceived. They argue that such differences in the truths fromeach of the witnesses are the main focus of the film, not searching for the absolute truth. Inother words, Ebert and Kurosawa state that Rashomon is about recognizing andunderstanding differences in perception. According to relativism, these differences inperception originate from an individual’s unique experiences, cultural and religiousbackgrounds, ethical values, and other factors that affect his or her perspective. Perspective is,by definition, subjective mindset, which can be rephrased as the way a person perceivesreality. So, truths of the reality are subjective, as Ebert argues, because they are based on
Geun Ho Lee Senior Seminar Period 4 November 13, 2011 Mr. Cloversubjective mindset that will create differences in perception from an individual to another. To understand the differences in perspective in more depth, Roger Ebert implies thatethical decisions must be considered. As it was mentioned already, subjective truth that Ebertsupports depend on the differences in perspectives of individuals. One of the factors thataffect one’s perspective is ethical values. For this particular case, the ethical values in themotives to kill the samurai have to be considered to make more apt analyses on theseaccounts. From what has been told by the characters in the film, each character had motive tokill the samurai. Based on Plato’s equation, “K = JTB”, where K stands for knowledge and Jstands for justification, T stands for truth, and B for belief, Ebert comments that havingsubjective truth, which satisfies for T in the equation, is not enough to gain knowledge, hencereally not understanding what and why the crime happened. So, in order to really understandthe film, the audiences should concentrate on assessing the motives of each witness. Thisclaim by Ebert correlates well with Kurosawa’s focus on the differences in perception that areevident in the four different accounts to the crime scene and the importance of ethical issuessuch as motive in understanding the differences. In short, the film Rashomon displays four contradicting accounts to one incident, ofwhich Errol Morris and Roger Ebert interpret differently. The existence of one truth to whothe killer of the samurai is, it could be argued that Morris’s view of one absolute truth relateswell to the film. However, Akira Kurosawa’s, the director, intent to convey the idea of theimportance of understanding the roots to differences in perception and the importance ofethical values in that understanding corresponds better with Ebert’s claim of subjective truth.
Geun Ho Lee Senior Seminar Period 4 November 13, 2011 Mr. Clover Works Cited"Interview with Errol Morris." The Believer. The Believer, Apr. 2004. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.<http://www.believermag.com/issues/200404/?read=interview_morris>.