Essay on Artifice and Self-Reflexivity in Non-Fiction Film

Essay on Artifice and Self-Reflexivity in Non-Fiction Film

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Doubling Reality: Artifice and Self-Reflexivity in Non-Fiction Film

The non-fiction film is the original creation at the crossroad between
cinema and authenticity. It is traditionally considered to be the truest of any art
form by focusing on perceived reality, whereas fictional narratives necessarily
fabricate conscious experiences for the application of style and meaning.
Documentary films have a considerably more complex signification than fictional
works because they propose the viewer’s reality as the film’s diegesis, two areas
that are disparate in works of fiction. The ultimate goal of non-fiction film must be
to come as close to portraying reality as possible. There exists, however, a great
deal of deception in the act of conjuring or doubling reality for a filmic endeavor.
This deceptive practice combines and confuses the two realms. Non-fiction films
use ambiguous or duplicated reality as a theme to cast self-reflexive awareness
on the cinematic processes. (Nichols 12-15)
The question of objectivity arises in this pursuit as it does in any
expressive form. The very essence of what the viewer believes himself to see is
constantly challenged by a suspected subjectivity. Since the angle or distance at
which something is seen can change its entire meaning, it is quite possible that
reality is impossible to obtain in any circumstance. The theories of Roland
Barthes, a 20th century literary critic, are the basis for the dilemma posed by the
possible conflicts of the camera and what is real. He explains the photograph as
something that “always carries its referent with itself.” He goes on to say that
because of this relationship, the image is a constant reminder of that which it
represents. For Barthes, ...


... middle of paper ...


...ambiguous relationship
between reality and diegetic authenticity.
11

Sources Cited
Barsam, Richard M. Non-Fiction Film: A Critical History. Bloomington, IN: Indiana
University Press, 1992.
Domarchi, Jean and Jacwques Doniol-Valcroze, Jean-Luc Godard, Pierre Kast,
Jacques Rivette, and Eric Rohmer. Hiroshima, Notre Amour. Cahiers du
Cinema: The 1950’s, Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave. Ed. Jim Hillier.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985. pp 59-70.
Nichols, Bill. Representing Reality. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,
1991.
Nichols, Bill. Blurred Boundaries. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,
1994. pp 117-121.
Renov, Michael. Theorizing Documentary. New York, NY: Routledge Publishing,
1993.
Small, Edward S. Direct Theory: Experimental Film/Video as a Major Genre.
Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994.

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