Bill Nichols, Representing Reality Ch. 2
Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary
What are Modes?
*basic ways of organizing texts (in this case, documentary films) in relation
to certain recurrent features or conventions
What is Representation?
*the process of using a medium (video, film, audio, painting, writing) to construct a version of the real world.
* a likeness, or depiction of the world.
*Filmmaker is representative of the social, political, economic interests of others.(independence)
*Must represent members of a culture with sensitivity to their own ideas of identity (ethnocentrism)
*Must respect the subjects of documentary as independent
social actors (People are not merely convenient raw material for your filmmaking
******* This issue involves idea of informed consent. How much do the social actors know about your project, how much input and control do they have over their own representation onscreen?
Documentary film has six dominant modes:
expository, observational, interactive, reflexive and
(Ivens, Bunuel & Dali. Fischinger, Menken)
1. Does not use continuity editing, sacrifices sense of the very specific location and place that continuity creates
2. Explores associations and patterns that involve temporal rhythms and spatial juxtapositions
3. Social Actors rarely become fully-fledged characters
4. Opens up possibility of alternative forms of knowledge to straightforward transfer of knowledge
NEGATIVE: LACK OF SPECIFICITY
1.Arose from dissatisfaction with distracting
entertainment qualities of the fiction film
2.Voice of god commentary, poetic perspectives sought to disclose information about historical world & see that world afresh, even if ideas seem romantic or didactic
3.Addresses viewer directly, w/titles or voices
4.Advances argument about historical world
5. It takes shape around commentary directed toward the viewer; images illustrate the verbal commentary builds sense of dramatic involvement around need for solution to a problem.
6. Nonsynchronous sound prevails (historical circumstances)
7. Editing generally establishes/maintains
rhetorical continuity more than spatial/temporal
Paradigm: depiction of everyday life
** Often described as either direct cinema
(Eric Barnouw) or cinema verite (Mamber). Barnouw says that verite is interventionist/interactive
Nichols (source for these notes) sidesteps this issue by creating two different modes that cover this topic: the observational and interactive modes of representation
Examples of filmmakers: Leacock, Pennebaker,
1.Arose from available lightweight portable
synchronous recordin equipment & dissatisfaction with moralizing quality
of expository documentary.
2.It allowed filmmaker to record unobtrusively what folks did when not explicitly addressing the camera.
3.It stresses the nonintervention of filmmaker
4.Filmmaker cedes control of events more than any other mode.
5.Editing doesnít construct time frame or rhythm, but enhances impression of lived or real time.
6.This mode limited filmmaker to present moment and required disciplined detachment from events themselves.
7.It uses indirect address, speech overheard, synchronous sound, relatively long takes.
8 Its sense of observation comes from
a. Ability of filmmaker to include representative & revealing moments
b. Sounds and images recorded at moment of observational filming in contrast to voice-over of expository mode
c. Illustrations do not serve generalizations but a specific slide of reality.
d. Presence of camera on scene
NEGATIVE: LACKS HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Examples: Rouch, de Antonio, Connie Field
It arose from the availability of same
mobile equipment & desire to make filmmakers perspective more evident.
1. This mode wants to engage w/individuals more directly while not reverting to classic exposition interview styles
2. It allows filmmaker to account
for past events via witnesses and experts whom viewer can also see
3. Archival footage becomes
appended to these commentaries to avoid hazards of reenactment & monolithic
claims of voice of god commentary
EXCESSIVE FAITH IN HISTORY, TOO INTRUSIVE
(Vertov, Godmilow, Raul Ruiz)
1. Arose form desire
to make the conventions of representation themselves more apparent & to
challenge the impression of reality which other three modes normally conveyed
2. It is the most
self-aware mode - its reflexivity makes audience aware of how other modes
claim to cosntruct "truth" through documentary practice.
3. It uses many
of devices of other modes but sets them on edge so viewer attends to device
as well as the effect.
4. It tears away veil of filmmakers illusory
5. Becomes technologically viable in 50s
with emergence of portable synchronous sound equipment makes interaction more
NEGATIVE: TOO ABSTRACT, LOSES SIGHT OF ACTUAL ISSUES
(Resnais, Julien, Riggs)
1. Like Reflexive Documentary, it raises
questions about knowledge
2. Endorses definition of knowledge that emphasizes personal experience (in tradition of poetry, literature)
3. Tries to demonstrate how understanding such personal knowledge can help us understand more general processes of society
4. May "mix" elements of various documentary modes to achieve link between subjective knowledge/understanding of the world, and more general understandings, i.e. historical ones.