Assess The Strengths And Limitations Of

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Assess The Strengths And Limitations Of ‘verite’ Documentary Essay, Research Paper The style of cinema verite originated in France during the 1950’s and `60’s. It was developed by Drew and Leacock at this time, and was also taken up in Britain, as it was seen capable of offering a new documentary experience. Verite as a term is often interchangeable with similar terms such as fly on the wall, or observational cinema. Whilst there are subtle differnces between the related styles, for instance, the presence of camera and crew is more explicit in observational cinema, for the purposes of this essay it is perhaps best to view all these styles under the common verite banner. It is the purpose of this essay to discuss in what sense verite can be seen as the most direct type

of documentary, why this `directness’ has generated suspicion as to its validity, within its audience, and to what extent this suspicion is justified. Perhaps one reason why verite is seen as the most direct form of documentary can be found in the it employs during the film making process. For example, verite is minimalist in terms of directoral intervention, and conveys a sense in which the viewer is given a direct view of what was actually happening in front of camera on the day of filming. All this is exacerbated by the absence of T.V. lighting and the rarity of interviews, although verite has increasingly utilised `the interview’ for purposes of coherence. Another feature of the verite style is that it tends to concentrate on highly spatialised, tight subjects. Again this

is to present a more coherent picture to the viewer, although this also increases the `directness’ of the genre, in that the facts we learn about the group are not blurred by an overload of more general information, as would be the case were the focus more widespread. Despite being seen as the most direct form of documentary there are a number of problems inherent in the genre which have caused it to be viewed with some suspicion. One of the main problems centres around the extent to which verite can be seen as offering a `real’ or `true’ picture of the subject it is involved in. Luckacs, for instance, has claimed that the cameras attention to the “here and now” is an inadequate mode of knowing. Events, objects and phenomena et cetera are all caught in process of change

and a network of causal relations that require representation if the `true’ story is to be fully understood. Luckacs claims, however, that “…the extensive totality of reality is beyond the scope of any artistic creation.”. In short, he is implying that verite is incapable of offering a true picture of its subject because, as an approach to documentary, it is so limited in its scope. This view can be linked to Dai Vaughans comments in his book “Television Documentary Usage”. He claimed that verite documentary makers are more interested in using indexal rather than iconic symbols in their films. Vaughan uses the example of a brick wall in his argument, claiming that in a fiction film a brick wall is iconic in that it does not matter which brick wall is filmed as long as

representation of a brick wall is shown. However, in a verite documentary, the brick wall, as constructed by the viewer upon seeing the image, must bear a unique relation to the brick wall which is actually before the camera. From this argument we can assume that the `realness’ of the objects/people/places etc shown in film, is crucial to the verite approach. Yet, if we believe Luckacs comments we must assume that verite, due to its limited scope, is incapable of presenting a real, or true picture of events. In this sense verite is limited, and any attempt it makes to present a picture of reality must be viewed with suspicion. Verite has also come across problems inherent in the subjects it tackles. Many verite programmes have been attacked because it is felt that they are not