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Nine SingharaSenior SeminarClover: Period 3March 8, 2012 Rashomon: Truth and Reality The Japanese drama film, Rashomon, tells a disturbing story regarding amysterious crime that has resulted in the death of a Samurai. Following the Samurai’sdeath, those involved in the incident as well as the eyewitness are called in for a seriesof questioning. The main characters are the Samurai, the Bandit, the Wife, and theWoodcutter. The first three were present at the crime scene, each claiming he or she isthe one responsible for the Samurai’s death. The latter claims that his account of theincident is what actually has happened, but is later exposed to have been in possessionof the missing weaponthat was supposed to be at the crime scene. With fourconflicting testimonies, the audience is left to perplexedly formulate their own take onthe matter. This brings about the controversial topic of truth and reality, which isexplored by both the film critic Roger Ebert and the filmmaker Errol Morris. Ebertbelieves that a subjective approach should be taken in analyzing this film. Assertingthat truth is relative, he argues that whatever one experiences with one’s senses reflecttruth, therefore reality could be different for everybody. Morris would say otherwise,contending that truth is subjective and that there is only one reality regardless of whatanybody’s beliefs. While Ebert’s argument suggests a valid idea that motives can beevidence that justifies truth, Morris’s views that there can only be one truth that runsalongside each individual’s natural mental reenactment of reality discerniblyoutweigh those of Ebert in the analysis of this film.
To an extent, each character’s suspicious recollection of the event can bebroken down and justified with the inclusion of motives of self-interest. It wouldlogically help to try to work out why a person did something he did. For the Samuraiwho places honor above all else, having his wife raped right in front of his eyes andthen betray him while not being able to do anything was a great shame, and anacceptable motive to commit suicide. In the Bandit’s case, it is only natural for arenowned outlaw like him to commit such murder. On top of that, he has a reputationfor being a womanizer, which makes his source of motivation good evidence to provehis tale. The wife seems more suspicious than anyone else. Although she had everyreason to be scared of her husband’s cold looks toward her after the rape, putting up avulnerable front during her testimony when all the others’ stories carve her out to bepungently deceitful and manipulative seems like an ill motive to gain pity from thejudges. It was convenient to believe that the Woodcutter’s story would be the mosttruthful. The disclosure of the fact that he stole the weapons may have undermined hisinnocent façade, but his motivation for stealing it might have been so that he couldsell it and get the money to raise his poor family that consists of six children. In thisaspect, Ebert’s position is useful in evaluating the conflicting authentication of asituation. Despite this, Morris’s point of view concerningthe matter of truth and realityseems to be a better overall fit for the analysis of this film. It makes a lot of sense tosay that truth is objective because although different people’s varying motivations andperception make them view the world differently, there has to be an absolute truth andan ultimate reality. It is true that the testimonies may have really been true to thosewho have given it, however, it is only because they try to avoid acknowledging whatactually happened, or rather, they allowed their believes and motivations cloud their
perception of reality.After all, Morris’s beliefs are that the mind can only go as far asreenacting what we have experienced the same way films and images are made.Whatever the case, three different people could not have possibly killed the Samuraiin reality. There must be truth and reality that runs independently of what is going onin everybody’s mind entirely. According to Morris’s opinion,if we search hardenough through investigating a series of evidence and information, we can come upwith a solution that comes closer and closer to the uniform truth. The style with whichRashomon was made also supports this theory. The questioning of several characterstake place so that a sufficient amount of information could be gathered and carefullyfiltered so that at least something relative the truth could be reached. Morris’spoint of view and argument also coheres with those of the ancientphilosopher Plato. In Plato’s outline of the three tests of truth, he states that truth mustbe independent of anyone’s belief, emphasizing the prior stated idea of ultimatereality, which is essentially the core of Morris’s beliefs. Something can be true even ifeverybody believes it is false and something can be false even if somebody believes itis true. For something to be knowledge, it has to have all three elements ofjustification, truth, and belief. Simply trying to justify something to their ownadvantage does not make their argument true. In the light of the film’s analysis, all ofthe characters could believe their own version of the story all they want, but that doesnot change the fact that one of them was the culprit.Since there is no way to know forcertain what the truth actually is in this film, no matter how much justification orbeliefs are present in the unveiling of the crime, the real knowledge can never beobtained. Ultimately, both of Ebert’s and Morris’s opinions on truth and reality can beused to suitably analyze the Rashomon film. The only thing that makes Morris’s
argument more befitting than Ebert’s is its core essence that relies on the ultimatereality and one uniform truth to arrive at real knowledge. When the aspects of bothare combined and integrated in a particular manner, the evaluation and analysis of thefilm can finally be made effective. Even in modern day judicial courts, this samecombination of both points is used in the process of judging whether somebody isguilty or innocent. Suspects and eyewitnesses give their own testimonies, which arethen evaluated by their motives with the fact that there is a definitive truth despitewhat any of them say in mind as the main principle in the judgment.
Works CitedEbert, Roger. "Rashomon (1950)." Rogerebert.com. 26 May 2002. Web. 06 Mar. 2012.Poppy, Nick. "Errol Morris." The Believer. Apr. 2004. Web. 06 Mar. 2012.