Documentaries: More Realistic than Other Types of Films

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Is a documentary always more realistic than fiction film? If so, why? If not, why not? What makes a film more or less realistic?

In this essay, I will explain why a documentary is always more realistic than a fiction film. I will show my thesis by exploring elements that influence how realistic a film is: film editing and format, genre, and transparency. I will use the documentary of Armadillo (2010), by Janus Pedersen, and the fiction film of The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968), by Danièle Huille as examples.
To begin with, some of the significant differences between documentaries and fiction films are transparency and aesthetics. Documentaries present existing, authentic narratives supported by original stimuli of the situation- audio, video, or images, for example. Thus, the purpose of documentaries is to show reality; to be transparent; to show the world through them, according to Walton. Therefore, documentaries are not representational , like Scruton would argue, and, by extension, they are not art.
To continue, fiction films strive to be a representation of a narrative that creates a “pseudorealism of a deception aimed at fooling the eye,” according to Bazin. With this, Bazin means that fictional films are made to represent reality through artistic components, given that film is a form of art. Hence, fiction films are less real than documentaries. Last but not least, because occurrences in fictional films are acted and never had an authentic existence in this universe, fiction films are less real than documentaries.
However, Armadillo is a documentary that may be considered less realistic than a fiction film like The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach because of Pedersen’s film format. Armadillo presents the w...

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Rubinoff, Kailan R. "Authenticity as a Political Act: Straub-Huillet’s Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach and the Post-War Bach Revival." November 2011, 2-3. Accessed February 16, 2014.

Scruton, Roger. "Photography and Representation." Critical Inquiry 7, no. 3 (1981): 577. Accessed February 17, 2014. doi:10.1086/448116.

"Stunning War Documentary "Armadillo"" Cafebabel. Accessed February 17, 2014.

Walton, Kendall L. "Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism." Accessed February 16, 2014.

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