Truth isn’t guaranteed by style or expression. Truth isn’t guaranteed by anything.
I personally like this quote by Errol Morris. After watching two of Morris’ documentaries, I feel as though I understand his perspective a little better. Shawn Rosenheim’s article Interrotroning History: Errol Morris and the Documentary of the Future, clarified some of my misunderstandings that I had while watching both: Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure.
I actually like the interrotron idea. I could feel the personal touch between the people being interviewed and myself. It was as if they were talking to me and not at me. Occasionally a voice would sound engaging the interviewee to continue speaking or to change the subject, but it was as if I was a part of the set process.
Now the content was a lot for me to take in. I found both films quite boring for both entertainment and intellectual engagement. While I enjoyed the personal touches, the way the message was relayed to me just didn’t take. Perhaps it’s that I find the history of which he is trying to depict, unflattering. I can tell he has a fascination with people in authority, or at least think they are. It is funny because he has a way of twisting the lens to portray the negative aspects of the American government.
In Fog of War, archival footage is used to help support the film’s narrative based on information supplied by McNamara. Standard Operating Procedure relies heavily upon the interviewed subjects. The film focuses on the brutality of war, rather than the concept of warfare. Looking at a specific military prison, Morris tries to provide an understanding to the photographs that were taken of the violence occurring.
Now re-analyzing Morris’ quote, I question where is the truth. The narrative follows the perspectives of the interviewee(s) and doesn’t deviate too much from their personal accounts. I wonder how other perspectives would have explained the same event. Is Morris acknowledging that even he cannot depict Truth with the capital “T”? I think there is much that can be said. I think that Morris understands that there are multiple versions of the truth because each person has their own experiences and biases and reasons to “forget” details.
I know this blog post is different than my usual ones. While Morris does utilize his films to focus on certain areas of historical wars, I just couldn’t retain much of the information. Instead, I chose to look at everything around. He relies on interviewees to help dictate the narrative, but he also engages archival resources to enhance the personal accounts with visual meaning. Using an interrotron provides a personal touch for the interviewee, interviewer, and the audience watching. There is consistent eye contact made, which makes the interviewee appear to be honest. There is some music, but not so much where the film needs it to assist in narration or dramatic effect.
For style, I like Morris. If I were to try and create a documentary I would do something similar. The personal touch makes it seem inviting. With new technology available, the audience can now feel as if they are there with the person. I have never seen a documentary quite like Morris. I do suggest watching at least one just to understand the clear difference.