Jennifer Purgill Senior Seminar P.3 Rashomon EssayTo what extent do the views of either Ebert or Morris (with regard to truth and reality) fit ananalysis of the film Rashomon? Rashomon is a Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa created in 1950. In the movie,four different stories are explained about the same incident are told by the samurai, his wife, awoodcutter, and a bandit. Several of the characters claim to have committed the murder, but bythe end of the film Kurosawa does not reveal who the true murderer is; the audience is left todecide who they believe committed the crime. Roger Ebert and Errol Morris are two moviecritics who have opposing viewpoints on the movie in regard to truth in reality. Although theyboth agree with the idea that all humans have different perspectives, they have opposingviewpoints associated with truth and reality. Ebert believes that truth and reality are subjective,and are different from each individual’s viewpoint. Morris on the other hand believes that truthand reality are objective and independent of perception. Although the views of Roger Ebert areboth logical and valid, the views of Errol Morris better fit an analysis to the film Rashomon inregard to truth and reality. Ebert supports the idea that truth and reality are subjective and that every person has theirown truth and reality based on their perception and experiences and applies this idea in hisanalysis of Rashomon. Ebert’s view of relativism is similar to that of Pascal’s. In the film
Rashomon, all of the characters have a different story as to what occurred. Each character hastheir own version of what happened that they believe is true and it is part of their own reality;they have their own mental map which contains their individual experiences. This supportsEbert’s theory that truth and reality are subjective and dependent upon humans and theirindividual experiences. Each character’s experiences in the movie led them to have differentstories as to what happened in the forest in regards to the murder of the samurai. Ebert states thatflashbacks “do not agree with any objective reality. Because we see the events in flashbacks, weassume they reflect truth. But all they reflect is a point of view” (Ebert). What he says indirectlysupports Morris’ theory that truth is independent. Although a person may believe that what theysee is reality, it is only their own point of view on a certain experience, it does not make whatthey believe true. In the movie, all characters believe that what they saw is reality, but regardlessof their own experiences there is only one person who actually committed the crime. In hisreview of Rashomon, Ebert writes that “The genius of Rashomon is that all of the flashbacks areboth true and false” (Ebert). The characters’ flashbacks are true in the sense that what theybelieve is reality is true to them, but what they believe to be true may not be the universal truth.Because the descriptions of what occurred are so subjective and only one of the stories couldactually be the truth, Ebert’s views of truth and reality are not the best to analyze Rashomon. As opposed to Ebert, Morris believes that there is only one universal truth and that truthand reality are independent of people. Morris’ ideas in regards to the truth and reality in the filmcan be supported with Plato’s three characteristics of truth. According to Plato, the threecharacteristics of truth are that the truth is public and is true for everyone, it is independent ofanyone’s belief (it is true even if someone does not believe that it is), and it is eternal and wastrue in the past, currently, and will always be true. Plato and Morris support the idea that there is
only one truth, and that “truth and reality are independent of people, ergo they are both absoluteand objective” (Errol Morris). This would mean that only one of the stories told about the murderof the samurai is true, regardless of the fact that all of the characters believe their own story iscorrect. Although Morris supports the idea that we all have different perceptions of the world andindividual situations, he argues that there is still only one, universal, objective truth that isindependent of humans and their perception. In his review, Morris states that “there is adifference between the reality and what we perceive but we often ignore” (Errol Morris). Thisstatement supports the idea that our perception does not take us straight to reality; we need tosearch for the truth because we often perceive things but either subconsciously or consciouslyignore parts of what is occurring. Selective perception could also be a reason for why thecharacters in the film only remembered certain parts of what happened, or saw only what theywanted to see. Because the characters in the film all claim to know the truth but have completelydifferent stories as to what happened, it shows that they all had ignored or simply did notperceive what really happened because only one of the people who confessed to the crime hadactually committed it. Because of Morris’ support of Plato’s three characteristics of truth andselective perception, Morris’ views better fit an analysis of the film. Morris’ beliefs of truth and reality being objective can be seen by other ideas establishedby Plato. A theory that widely supports Morris’ ideas comes from Plato’sformula of knowledgebeing a justified true belief (K=JTB). Although all of the characters in the film have a differentbelief and their justification is their perception of the incident, there is only one possible truththat fits the formula. The justification of what they believe happened through perception alsomay be incorrect due to selective perception, they may have left out certain vital pieces ofinformation regarding what had happened, either by choice or because they simply did not
realize it. Knowledge should be justified with evidence that has been come across with reasoning.This formula created by Plato is useful in analyzing Rashomon because there is only onepossible person who killed the samurai, regardless of the fact that all of the characters hadconfessed to the murder. Because of this, Morris’ ideas about truth and reality better analyzeRashomon. Overall, Morris’ ideas better analyze Kurosawa’s 1950 film of Rashomon. His support ofthe three characteristics of truth, K=JTB, and selective perception show that there is only onepossible murderer regardless of the fact that all of the characters admitted to committing thecrime. Although both Ebert’s and Morris’ ideas are valid, Morris’ analysis better fit the film ofRashomon.Word count: 1,096
Works Cited“Errol Morris.” The Believer.Apr. 2004. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.Ebert, Roger. “Rashomon (1950).”Rogerebert.com. 26 May 2002. Web. 7 March 2012.