Siriben Somboon Senior Seminar Period 3 Rashomon Essay Rashomon is a Japanese crime film directed by Akira Kyrosawa which revolvesaround a samurai’s death and the rape of samurai’s wife. The film opens on a woodcutter, apriest and a commoner at the Rashomon gate. The story is about 4 witnesses – the bandit,samurai’s wife, samurai (told through a spiritual possession) and the woodcutter. All fourstories vary in many ways but share some common details such as the raping of samurai’swife by the bandit and the samurai’s death. In the ending, it does not reveal who murders thesamurai; the audience is left with an open ending to judge what the truth is and who is tellingthe truth. There are two individuals with contrasting view of truth and reality, Errol Morrisand Roger Ebert. Morris is an absolutist who believes that there is only one truth and truth isobjective. On the other hand, Ebert believes that truth is subjective and reality is based on theindividual’s interpretation. Although both critics are valid in their arguments, Morris’s viewof perception, there is only one truth, is more applicable in the film Rashomon. Although Ebert’s view of truth is that truth is subjective and is based on individual’sinterpretation, is related to different approaches to the crime scene in Rashomon, there arelimitations to Ebert approach to reality. Ebert would believe that different version of the storyare caused by selectivity of perception, people choose what to see. Each character has its ownmental map which makes them have different version of the story. For example, accordingto the bandit’s story, after the bandit has seduced the samurai’s wife, the wife begs the banditto duel to death with the samurai. However, according to the samurai’s story, after the banditraped his wife, he was given a choice between letting his wife go and killing her. Later thesamurai killed himself with his own dagger. The bandit’s mental map of reality may cause
him to view that he has no choice but to duel with the samurai because the samurai’s wifebegged him. The samurai may view that he doesn’t have a choice but to kill himself becausehe cannot be with his wife (his wife going with the bandit or killing his wife). According toindependent testimony, all four stories do not coherence with each other which show thatperception may be fallible (Lagemaat). It is impossible to make all four stories true, so therewill be a lot of uncertainties if Ebert’s view of truth is being used. On the other hand, Morris’s view of truth is absolute and there is only one truth. Hebelieves that “a truth for you, a truth for me” and how people see the world differently doesnot mean that there is no reality (Morris). The reality is that there can be only one person whokilled the samurai with a dagger because there is only one dagger. Although people havedifferent stories, Morris would believe that the story may be true to the individual, but onlyone person killed the samurai, which is the reality. According to Morris, if it is true that aperson killed the samurai, it becomes knowledge because he believes that there is only onetruth. So according to K=JTB equation, for Morris T=K. This contrasts with Plato’s view ofknowledge, that truth is independent and from his equation, K=JTB, individual cannot gainknowledge if the individual does not believe that it is true and cannot justified it. However,for Morris, truth does not have to be justified for it to become knowledge. For example,Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”, prisoners in the cave believed that the shadows formedby people walking by is the reality. However when the prisoner got released, he went outsidethe cave and found out that the shadows he saw in the cave is not the reality. This shows thatpeople can see the world differently, but this does not mean that there is no reality. The film is based on eye witness testimonies of the characters. Eye witness testimonydoes not give an accurate record of what people see. Memories are reconstructed all the timeand people do not get an accurate record. Similar to what Morris says that “people see theworld differently”, this makes the memory of the person different from another person
(Morris). He also says that “there is such a thing as truth, but we have a vested interest in notseeing it, in avoiding it” (Morris). This shows how the characters have different version ofthe same crime. There is a truth, but the characters choose to avoid it and memories arereconstructed from pieces of information. The validity of truth for each character is affectedby independent testimony. If evidence hasn’t been confirmed by other people, it doesn’tmean that there is no truth. Although people may not be able to get the ultimate reality ofwho murdered the samurai from eye witness testimony, there is only one truth. In conclusion, the film Rashomon shows four different versions of the same crimewhich raises the question of what is the truth. Although Ebert points out that there is truth foreach individual, Morris idea of there is only one truth would best the story. According toMorris, it is impossible for all four different versions of the crime to be true. How peopleview the world is independent of the reality. By using Morris’s view of truth would have lessuncertainty compared to Ebert’s view of truth which brings the viewer closer to the reality.
Works CitedEbert, Roger. “Rashomon (1950)”. Rogerebert.com. Chicago Sun-Times. 26 May 2002. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.Lagemaat van de, Richard. “Theory of Knowledge for the IB diploma”. Cambridge University Press 2005. Print.Morris, Errol. “The Interview by Morris”. The Believer. N.p. April 2004. Web. 24 February 2012.