How do any of the documentaries screened during the
course of the unit effectively contribute towards a
knowledge of the ‘real’ world? Consider the role
of interpretation in this endeavour.
In this essay I am going to investigate how the works of Frederick Wiseman, allow their audience to gain an understanding of the realities of American institutions and how this would be interpreted by an audience. I shall be exploring, in-depth, the films “High school” (1968), “Basic Training” (1971) and his first documentary “Titicut Follies” (1967), whilst making representations to how their style relates to the genre of Cinema verite , to gain an understanding of how these films try to represent ‘real life’.
When thinking about the question; “How do Wiseman’s films contribute to a knowledge of the ‘real’ world?” The terms cinema verite or direct cinema, as it’s more commonly known in the U.S, immediately spring to mind. These were techniques that emerged once it became possible to record scenes easier, with the development of equipment that was lighter, could record in lower light conditions and made recording sync sound much more efficient. In the broad picture, both of these techniques try “to find ‘the reality of life,’ ‘the truth in people’ hidden under the superficial conventions of daily living” (Ellis and Mclane, 2006:217). When looking closer at the two terms, there are subtle differences, for example direct cinema implies the use of the camera in the respect that the subject becomes unaware of its presence, therefore creating a natural performance for the viewer, who, in the context of direct cinema, simply become observers of natural events. Cinema verite still employs this “style” in its technique, however in some circumstances scenes are known to be set-up therefore making a staged representation of the realities of life. Another aspect of this style is to create drama through real events with the use of sophisticated editing and camera techniques....