Unreal Nature

November 12, 2015

A Parallel World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… a fantasized, projected alternate self — played a large role in the psychic life of both … They were “other” to each other.

This is from the author’s interview with Amie Siegel in Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema by Scott MacDonald (2015):

[ … ]

MacDonald: What exactly do you mean by “unstable ethics”?

Siegel: Unstable ethics are inherent in non-fiction filmmaking. So many documentary films purport to represent singular, objective truths, rather than an entire messy world of subjective gray zones.

[line break added] Often, little attention is paid to the coerced or scripted performance of documentary film subjects, or to the use of third-world subjects for the benefit of a privileged first-world western gaze, or to the claim that fly-on-the-wall cinéma vérité filmmaking removes the maker from the mix, when in fact cinéma vérité is really an exaggerated subjectivity on display (the best of the vérité bunch recognize and even play to this), or to the complex web of projection and identification the viewer experiences: that is, how watching a film’s horrific events and human conditions “there” can unconsciously reify one’s sense of privilege, of being safely, comfortably “here.”

It’s not that I don’t love cinema; I am passionately attached to so much about cinema. But for me this attachment does not exclude a critical eye on its formulaic governing and even unconscious practices. … [W]hat is the boundary between filming as an art and film as an act of surveillance and control?

I included in the film many of the “accidents” and candid moments that other filmmakers would be likely to leave out. For example, one can often see the microphone intruding into the frame or reflected in the glass of a picture on the wall.

[ … ]

Siegel: … The things that sometimes keep me up at night are the many tangents that could have been included, but were eliminated during the shooting or editing. Though DDR/DDR is a broad constellation of intertwined ideas, many things that felt relevant, including things that got said in interviews, didn’t become part of the finished film; they haunt me.

I love your construction of the interviews as sets of doubles. I see that too. I wonder if doppelgängers, binaries and doubles don’t unconsciously suggest roads not taken, choices we could have made. Certainly this arises towards the end of DDR/DDR where the Stasi psychologist confesses that what he really wanted to do was be a filmmaker, or where another former Stasi operative admits that there were things they did — he did — that shouldn’t have been done.

But of course the largest double at play here is that of East and West. What would my life have been had I been East German? Or West German? I suspect that this sense of a parallel world — and a fantasized, projected alternate self — played a large role in the psychic life of both East and West Germans. They were “other” to each other.

My most recent previous post from MacDonald’s book is here.




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