Friday, July 6, 2007

Elastic vs. Ecstatic Truth

Just a quick link to's review of Werner Herzong's new film, Rescue Dawn. I use the word "review" loosely, as this piece is less an assessment or critique of the film than it is an acknowledgment of Herzog's relation to truth. Herzog, who I love, always talks about the "ecstatic truth" that he tries to capture in his work, but as Slate shows, his approach to documentary has been, at least in part, characterized by an effort to create truth rather than show it:

British filmmaker John Grierson called documentary "the creative treatment of actuality." This elastic definition is useful when considering the many liberties Herzog takes in Little Dieter and other docs—in Land of Silence and Darkness (1971), he supplied Fini Straubinger, the film's deaf-blind subject, with scripted lines and fictitious childhood memories. These kinds of embellishments, Herzog maintains, push past the factual—what he calls "a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants"—and into a realm where a film can illuminate an entire inner world rather than merely reproduce external realities.
Rescue Dawn is an action version of Herzog's 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which I highly recommend. The trailer for Rescue Dawn is below.

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