Artifice and Self-Reflexivity in Non-Fiction Film Essay

2699 Words 11 Pages
Doubling Reality: Artifice and Self-Reflexivity in Non-Fiction Film

The non-fiction film is the original creation at the crossroad between cinema and authenticity. It is traditionally considered to be the truest of any art form by focusing on perceived reality, whereas fictional narratives necessarily fabricate conscious experiences for the application of style and meaning.
Documentary films have a considerably more complex signification than fictional works because they propose the viewer’s reality as the film’s diegesis, two areas that are disparate in works of fiction. The ultimate goal of non-fiction film must be to come as close to portraying reality as possible. There exists, however, a great deal of deception in the act
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Notwithstanding that, it is still the non-fiction film director’s goal to come as close as possible to objective production so that the observer can be epistemologically convinced by the film’s message. (Renov 135-
142)
Normal non-fiction movies address reality through exposition, observation, or interaction. There also exists a substantive discourse for challenging the conventional modes of representing reality. Reflexive documentary seeks to expose the means by which the viewer conceives of the real while also emulating it. While a traditional non-fiction film would use audio-visual representation to elicit the viewer to envision a certain referent, a reflexive film would complicate this matter by drawing attention to the processes by which a certain referent originates. This type of film also examines the necessary subjectivity of truth and reality in the cinematic medium. (Nichols 32-34)
For example, F For Fake (1974, dir. Orson Welles) begins with the director, with whom the viewer is supposed to invest authorial trust for 88 minutes, performing sleight-of-hand magic. For the careful spectator, this is a forewarning of the subtle ideological maneuvering that the director feels himself in control of. If a magician is able to manipulate an audience in person, Welles defies the captive viewer to contend with the smoke and mirrors of trick photography and editing. Before the magic

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