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December 1997, Week 2


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Kevin Boon <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 11 Dec 1997 22:26:04 -0500
text/plain (89 lines)
Since Mike is taking umbrage specifically at my comments, let me clarify
and react to a few points.
At 07:47 PM 12/11/97 -0400, you wrote:
> -- a) begin with the premise that no account can be the TOTAL OBJECTIVE
>truth, whatever that might be, presumably an account that manages to
>provide all possible points of view on something and exhausts it as a
>topic once and for all . . . and then proceed to move from this inarguable
>premise to the preposterous conclusion that
> -- b) there is NO difference worth mentioning between truth and fiction
Actually, I did not say this in my post. If point of fact, I do not hold
this position, and would vehemently agree with anyone who said that
distinctions between and among events can be drawn. If I remember
correctly, I literally stated that some representation can be truer than
another. The absence of an absolutely objective viewpoint merely makes
observations, and thus representation, problematic. There is a difference
between narrative truth and narrative fiction. Narrative truth presents
itself under the presumption that an audience will accept the narrative as
true and provides evidence for this claim. Narrative fiction presents
itself under the presumption that an audience recognizes the narrative as a
. . . but kevin's arguement
>[and, i suspect, his outrage] are in fact evidence that he himself is
>working with a very clear and stable notion of the difference tween truth
>and falsehood, and is pissed when something that is one pretends to be
>the other . . . in other words, his examples do not demonstrate
>that there's no difference between true and false discourses; in fact they
>demonstrate exactly the opposite, that there are clear differences
>between them, at least in principle
I am not outraged. I am not pissed. I am quite calm and upset with no one.
I apologize if I gave the wrong impression. But I must state that I do not
claim to have a "stable notion of the difference tween truth and
falsehood." How anyone could get this impression from what I wrote baffles
me. I believe narrative is necessarily limited. Representation is never
absolutely the thing represented. Therefore, when we engage in a discussion
of documentary film, we are forced to ask ourselves why (as in the first
post) someone is concerned with alterations or additions made to
representative media (i.e. the adding of sound to a silent filmstrip).
Isn't the underlying presumption in such a concern that the adulterated
film is no longer remaining faithful to something? If so, then what is it
that it is not remaining faithful to? In my last post, I argued (perhaps
unclearly) that the film cannot remain faithful to some objective truth,
or, perhaps more accurately, whether it remains faithful to some objective
truth or not is a moot question because the objective truth is not reliably
accessible in any totalitarian sense. But this does NOT discount the
validity of the film. As I believe I stated, the film does remain faithful
to something, and that is the filmmaker's perception. Representation is
always subjective. "True" and "False" are judgements, not palpable
realities. What is judged true depends on who does the judging, even when
considering physical realities. But this is not to say that nothing
physical exists. That is, of course, and absurd, ungrounded position.
> . . . that no account can tell the whole truth hardly means that all
>accounts are equally false . . .
which, of course, is a claim I never made.
> . . . so, can we now stop worrying ourselves and each other with this
>trendy relativist pseudo-problem, and get on with thinking about
>what accounts actually do?
Which, I believe, is exactly what I was attempting to accomplish--an
examination of what accounts actually do. And what I was arguing is that
documentary accounts function as a narrative of the filmmaker's perception
of reality. This, it seems to me, elevates documentary filmmakers from
functionary positions into interpreters of human experience.
As a final point, some writers do employ what they perceive to be hip
rhetoric too loosely to be of much practical use, but should we devalue
critical approaches based on the worst practitioners? It is precisely this
"trendy relativist pseudo-problem" that allows human beings to recognize
Hitler's propaganda films as subjective representations rather than truth.
>mike frank
>Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.