When I read in Michel de Certeau’s L’invention du quotidien that we have become a ‘recited society’. I have to imagine he felt akin to Debord’s view of a world where a fossilized image absorbs consumerist mankind into an ultra stability. He comments on ‘the interminable recitation of stories (…récits by our advertising and informational media)’
As Direct Cinema or cinema-vérité gradually becomes the norm within documentary culture, I question its ethics. What need does it fulfill, especially regarding storytelling?
Documentary has become a way to see things as they are, above all, things as they are when we are absent from them. But from the moment filming takes place, events are relegated to the past, whether it be yesterday or a hundred years ago.
A documentary is therefore always based on an archive. Archives form histories. How do documentaries allow us to read the sequences of images and sound we are sat in front of?
They don’t, generally. So-called Direct Cinema is personality driven. By contrast, the documentary essay is rhetorical and subject/fact driven. Rarely does one question how things past are brought into our present. Rarely is storytelling itself, the making of histories, brought into the spotlight. Note how easy it seems for us to read archival material in general (I’m thinking here of Adam Curtis’s Traumazone). Thinkers from Benjamin to Deleuze emphasize the concept of tradition as the need to parttake in storytelling, that parttaking being something collective and vital. Deleuze also maintains that the cinema has nothing to do with truth. Can a documentary be collective and vital (forgetting for now, issues of target audience or televison vs cinema etc)?
Mein Krieg is built on a key element: play. We are witnesses to History together with histories….of the little man, both with and without remorse. The past and a present, views without questions of truth or argumentation. And no play, no recounting, without risk. In similar vain to Mein Krieg, consider Emmanuel Finkiel’s Casting.