Unreal Nature

July 9, 2015

By Your Own Lights

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… there’s not a moment, not even a molecule of not manipulating an audience.

This is from the interview with Jonathan Oppenheim in First Cut 2: More Conversations with Film Editors by Gabriella Oldham (2012):

[ … ]

… After a series of [pre-release] screenings [of The Oath], as I mentioned before, people seemed to like the film, but there was something missing for them which they couldn’t define — something was wrong.

Yes, this was where you said you had made a pivotal discovery. Can you elaborate?

People were missing the presence of the filmmaker pushing back against this guy. All along, we’d tried to let him tell his own story, but people felt uncomfortable because they didn’t approve of him as a person and didn’t want him to tell his story to them. They had felt subtly insecure in their viewing experience.

TheOath_poster

[ … ]

So the character — and what he represented for post-9/11 audiences — was so uncomfortable for them that you needed to insert a reminder that the filmmaker, and not this character, was telling this story.

Essentially. What made people unconsciously uncomfortable was the sense that we were being his mouthpiece. So we were affirming for them that we were in control of the process. We understood that he was a liar and that he needed to be questioned and not just presented as someone telling his story. We were pushing back against him and allowing the audience enough security to have an emotional experience about him, acting as a container for the audience’s feelings. In telling a story about someone so unusual and suspect, the filmmaker’s presence in the film became an anchor — something we had overlooked initially because our focus had been to provide a structure for the film. Now the taxi/camera scene became a zone where the audience could feel the character wasn’t dominating the viewing experience. Rather, the director had a consciousness of the character’s qualities and was, in a sense, pursuing him.

[ … ]

Would you consider that manipulating the audience — even for a good reason?

In any film, there’s not a moment, not even a molecule of not manipulating an audience. And I’m the audience. Basically, I’m manipulating myself! [laughs] But you don’t even have to use the word manipulating. It’s working to create a vision of the material. I’m trying to fulfill or express a vision of the material. I’m trying to fulfill or express a vision, and there’s just no objectivity there. You can be true to something insofar as your understanding of the truth is being fulfilled. You can be true to something by your own lights, and that is pretty much the most you can do. You can also be false to something, which is a sin in documentary.

When would that happen?

When someone lies about a fact to make the story better or creates facts that didn’t happen.

-Julie

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