PR, Films and Fantasies

Film Appreciation at The Guardian with Danny Leigh – reality films

Posted on: February 6, 2011

I know I promised a sequel for Film Appreciation part 1 so, almost a week later, here it is. Sorry for the delay but dissertation issues as well as applying for an MA and trying to keep up with the PR duties can keep one quite busy.

Anyway, here it is:

Films portraying reality – documentary versus fantasy

We have to admit that one of the basic things that make a film “good” is the extent to which it seems REAL. Are the characters sincere enough, are the stories realistic? And all this because throughout the 2hours of the production, the story in the film supersedes life for the viewer and he expects to live, breathe and be the character. Basically, all big technological innovations in the industry were meant to make the films more…real: sound, steadicams, special effects and of course 3D (even if we are still to get used to it in order to fully “live” the effect)!

In the end all the Free Cinema movements pushed it towards the “real” in comparison to the glam and the shine of Hollywood and that is what made them more valuable in an “artistic” way. They were shot in the “real” world with “real” people who act and talk like they do in their everyday life.

Let’s take a few examples: Salesman by Maysles Brothers – it’s the documented life of a salesman… however, is it a documentary? is it fantasy? and if it is a documentary, then as it offers just one position, form one angle and from a certain artistic point of view, isn’t it still reality turned into art and therefore a type of fantasy? (sorry if I puzzled you even more)

Lars Von Trier’s famous Dogville. No set, no design, no real objects that can define space and still we engage with the drama and the characters as the story draws us in. The cinema always had a problem with TRUTH, but it’s all part of its grammar, of its genius – you know you are watching an artistic product but you still engage with all its aspects as realistically as possible in the level of imagination.

Then we have Blair Witch, a film that marketed itself as a true story, as well as Paranormal Activity. Think about the way in which people reacted when watching them. We know they are fantasies, but somewhere deep inside we think… what if?

One of the most shocking reality versus fiction films has to be Waltz With Bashir. It’s an animation that relates to real facts and people… where is the barrier between fiction and life in it? And how does the final scene challenge the viewer by showing shocking news-style pieces?


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