Yoshida 1 Maiko Yoshida Senior Seminar Period 5 November 13, 2011 Rashomon and Perception People perceive everything by using five senses which are sight, smell, sound,taste and touch. The film of Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa shows how people perceivesame event differently. The movie opens with a woodcutter, a priest and a peasanttalking at Rashomon gate. In the beginning, the woodcutter keeps saying “ I just don’tunderstand” because there are four different eye witness testimonies of the same event.The only thing we are sure is that a samurai is killed by someone. A bandit, a wife and aSamurai who get killed, all say to be the murder and it makes this event confused. Thisfilm brings how we see things differently and how it is caused to our perception.Actually, many people also experience like each person gives equivocal accounts ofsame events. Errol Morris, who is an absolutist, believes that there is only one absolutetruth and truth should be objective. On the other hand, Roger Ebert, who is a relativist,believes that there are multiple truths depend on person because each person hasdifferent perception. Even though we cannot prove whether Morris or Ebert’s opinion iscorrect and some people say that there is Morris’ aspect in this film, I think Ebert’stheory better fits with this movie, Rashomon. Morris thinks that there is an absolute truth with everyone’s agreement. Hesays, “I do not believe that truth is subjective. Just thinking something does not make itso” in his interview (Morris). He has same idea as Plato. Plato’s view of society is also
Yoshida 2that an absolute truth exists. In the other words, there is only one truth, so everyoneexcept one person is lying or hiding the truth for their own benefit. For example, if thewoodcutter’s story is an absolute truth, it can be said that the wife is hiding the truth andmaking the story because she has to prove her innocence and modesty that she does nothave sex with the bandit but just get raped. However, according to Ebert, he thinks“although the stories are in radical disagreement, it is unlike any of the originalparticipants are lying for their own advantage, since each claims to be the murderer”(Ebert), so it can be said that they are just telling what they perceive. Ebert states that there are multiple truths, so each person’s claim to be themurder is true because each person has different perception and I think his theory ismore suitable than Morris’ theory in the case of Rashomon. His position with regard totruth and reality is that people should always be critical of what we are thinking ofbecause reality is subjective and truth is relative based on human interpretation and eachmental map. According to Ebert’s view about Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon”, he statesthat from this film, people should not even believe 100% about something have seen.To support his view, he talks about the flashbacks. He says that they are “true becauseeach eyewitness tells what he thought he saw”, but the flashbacks are also false becausepeople are “never honest with themselves about themselves and they cannot talk aboutthemselves without embellishing.” (Ebert). Due to this, it is almost impossible tocompletely believe what we have seen because we perceive the event differently andwhen we tell about it, what we say cannot catch everything which we see. Therefore,our eyewitness explanation is never complete and never accurate. Also, he says
Yoshida 3“flashbacks that do not agree with any objective truth” so the truth is subjective for eachindividual. Moreover, in his article, Ebert talks about perception because each eyewitnesshas his or her own perception about what happens, so each participant claims differentways. The viewer also has his own perception about what he sees in the film, soperspective is very important in this film. Because each person has each perception,motive can be strong evidence to state the reason why someone kills the samurai. Andthat is also the reason why all characters and audience cannot understand which is thecorrect perspective about who is the real killer. For example, the bandit has motive tokill the samurai because he wants to have the wife. The wife also has motive to kill thesamurai because the samurai sees the scene that she gets raped by the bandit. In case ofthe samurai, she has motive to kill himself too because the wife runs away with thebandit. Each person has own motive and it makes him or her believe what happens, soeach person has different truth. Then, Evert also talks about emotion because he thoughtKurosawa’s style for character’s speaking was so strong and facial expressions, too. Buthe said emotion is very important in Rashomon and accurate emotion is very difficult toexpress, so Kurosawa exaggerate each actor’s emotion to create the stronger impact,and this emotion also influences perspective because they influence each other verymuch. In conclusion, Ebert’s theory, the truth is subjective and is based on people’sdifferent view of the truth better fits with this film than Morris’ theory, there is anabsolute truth. Because each person has different mental map, his or her own
Yoshida 4interpretation is varied so everyone’s truth is also different each other. Since allwitnesses have no reason to hide the truth because everyone says to be a murder, it canbe assumed that every eyewitness truthfully tells what is happened, so we can hardlyknow who the murder is. Rashomon demonstrates that people cannot perceive thingswithout bias, so that makes world confused. That is why we usually misunderstand orcause problem between people. Work CitedEbert, Roger “Rashomon (1950)” rogerebert.com. n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2011.Morris, Errol “Errol Morris (Filmmaker)” The Believer. n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2011.