November 17, 2011 Tomohiro Urakami P.4 Rashomon Essay Perception is the awareness of things through our five senses; sight, smell,sound, touch and taste. Visual, which lead to interpretation and feeling are the two biggestelements, which are strongly associated or involved with truth. Those five senses connectus with the world, which enable us to interpret the way we see things. However, ourperception is unique because we see things differently from the others. A Japanese film,Rashomon, by Kurosawa brings discussion of “Reality vs. Perception.”Roger Ebert statesthat since our perception areunique, we see things differently and thus multiple truthsabout the same event are accepted, which make truth subjective. On the other hand, ErrolMorris is an absolutist who thinks that there is only one absolute truth. When dealing withthe situation of Rashomon, Roger Ebert’s idea of subjective reality or truth fits better thanMorris’s idea of absolute truth because the flexibility of Ebert’s viewpoint enables us toseek out the truth. In film, Rashomon, four witnesses give their stories about a murder of samurai.Although all four testified that Tajomaru, the bandit murdered samurai, they told differentstories of what they saw before the samurai was murdered. It is hard to tell which one istelling the truth. The dead samurai’s testimony seems to be the most reliable because hedoes not have any reasons to tell lie, but his testimony becomes less reliable after thewoodcutter testified and we find out that dead samurai told a lie in order to maintain hisself-esteem. Thus, woodcutter seems to be the mot reliable because he told the story ofmurder in third person point of view, but his testimony again becomes less reliable whenwe find out that he has stolen a dagger, but he does not tell this story when he testified.This movie eventually ends without finding out who was right. Although the four testimonies do not match at all, Morris would argue that onlyone of four witnesses are telling the truth and three of them are lying since there is onlyone absolute truth. In the interview, Morris states that “[Rashomon is] not a movie but thesubjectivity of truth” and thus all four witnesses are guilty of changing the truth in theirtestimonies (Morris). This idea is the same as Plato’s that knowledge is justified truth thustruth is absolute. Morris would refer his idea with scientific realism. Scientific realismdefines that the world exists as an independent reality, but it is very different from the waywe perceive it (de Lagemaat). By referring to this theory, Morris would say that only oneof four witnesses is true and others are misinterpreted because truth is independent and
November 17, 2011 Tomohiro Urakami P.4absolute. However, Morris’s view can only explain limited elementsof Rashomonbecause it is difficult to find the “absolute truth” in Rashomon due to the lack of strongevidence to support their testimonies. Roger Ebert’s view would fit to Rashomon’s situation better because Ebertwould say that four testimonies are depicting their mental maps, which are created bydifferent perception.The four testimonies in Rashomon depict their mental map, whichshows that all four perceived the murder differently from others (de Lagemaat). Ebertwould argue that all four are accepted as the truth because the truth is relative and basedon people perception. Thus, even multiple people are telling the story about the sameevent, they would tell the story differently because they have different eyes, which givedifferent perception. This is depicted in the example of“The Allegory of the Cave.” Whenpeople visit the cave, this cave does not have any significant meaning for them, butforthose who are chained in the cave, cave is their world. This example of cave shows thedifferentiation in people’s perception. Ebert’s viewpoint makes it easier to seek the truth inRashomon’s situation.Since there are not many physical evidences in this murder that can illustrate the wholepicture of the murder, Ebert would rely on motives as justification to find out the truth.Nevertheless, Morris would not rely on motives because truth is absolute ergo he does notconsider it as evidence. In Rashomon, woodcutter has no motive to tell a lie when hetestifies because he is not involved with the murder. Although he has stolen the daggerand he is hiding this fact from the others, his story seems logical and his position in thisfilm makes himthe most reliable than other three. Ergoaccording to Ebert’s viewpoint, itcould be assumed that woodcutter is telling the truth because he has no motive to tell a lie. As a result, although Morris’s absolute truth theory could be applied toRashomon that only one of four is telling the truth and other three are not since truth isabsolute, Ebert’s viewpoint fits better and explain the film Rashomon better due to histheory’s flexibility and acceptance of multiple truths. People see things differently due totheir perception and the limit of information. Truth is according to people’s perception,which makes it subjective and relative to the perception. Therefore, in order to understandthis film, we need to be aware of even minor aspects shown in the film. When we areaware of both major and minor aspects of this film, it becomes possible to assume thetruth or truths according to Ebert’s idea.