Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Deception?

  1. Top | #1
    Stephen T-B
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Yorkshire UK
    Posts
    63
    Archived
    5,878
    Total Posts
    5,941
    Rep Power
    71

    Deception?

    Is this the right place to talk about the ethics of making films and documentaries which are presented as dramatasing real events?

    The subject came to mind after I’d been reading about the portrayal of General Lord Cornwallis in the The Patriot and how it was a perversion of generally-acknowledge facts regarding his character.

    Does artistic licence extend to misrepresenting real people (perhaps still alive, but certainly those whose children/grandchildren are still living) and events which are supported by a ton of good evidence?

    For instance, how justified, ethically, is The Crown?

    In my days – long gone – as a TV critic, I was severe in my criticism of drama documentaries whose makers had carefully choreographed events so as to maximise their dramatic effect. I argued that it was a form of deception, encouraging viewers to think they are watching real life unfold when it was in fact stage managed.
    For that reason I disliked the enormously popular under-water films made the French naturalist Jaques Cousteau (d. 1997) which were shown here in the UK by the BBC; I felt they duped the viewer by purporting to show Nature-in-the-raw when the viewer was in fact seeing a film-maker’s carefully-disguised artifice.
    Last edited by Stephen T-B; 03-24-2021 at 05:33 PM.

  2. Top | #2
    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Local group: Solar system: Earth: NA: US: contiguous states westernmost - IOW here
    Posts
    14,412
    Archived
    18,213
    Total Posts
    32,625
    Rep Power
    64
    I worked under John Haralson at CSULA as a research associate in his comparative psychology labs in the late sixties. John was expert on mouth breeders from the Congo river. He recommended I get as much Cousteau under my belt as possible because it is from there and other naturalists that we find the full blown genesis of our behavioral underpinnings.



    One doesn't know schooling behavior until one sees it in color or of what makes fish act as they do. It's amazing how crisp the escape response is until you see a whole school of fish respond to a sudden change in conditions in front of them. I studied this behavior in Tilapia in test tube tanks. Dropping a meal worm into the tank after the Tilapia had nudged the test tube in the tank gave great perspective on startle.

    While it is not clear that mouth breeders learn from such events it is clear that they first startle and retreat a few times before they become more comfortable with the meal worm entering the tank after they nudge the test tube. After they become accustomed to the link between their action and its consequence they go about feeding by bar press at a furious pace.

    This behavior seems to be common from fishes to mammals. Obviously the basic wiring of of the nervous system underpins this behavior. Response mediation is transferred from parasympathetic to sympathetic over the course of this conditioning.

    Cousteau is just as responsible for my coming to understand this behavior as was T. C. Schneirla.

    Obviously deception leverages from how behaviors are structured across evolution.

  3. Top | #3
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Chochenyo Territory, US
    Posts
    6,184
    Rep Power
    23
    As a former critic, I imagine you are familiar with famed director Francois Truffaut's famous admonition that "all film is a lie." I believe this to be true. Even the documentarian shades the truth, because the viewer encounters film as though they were seeing the situation through their own eyes, but in truth it is the film-maker who decides where that camera points, who then edits what they captured down the "most important" few minutes. Even the most seemingly direct documentation of life, then, should always be seen as suspect. Let alone overtly fictionalized works such as The Crown. You aren't even waching a historian's opinion, in that case, but a cinematic representation whose details have been chosen for pathos and thrill. Real life does not conveniently provide us with a Holly-wood style three-act structure, most of the time.

    That said:

    I don't think such media should necessarily be condemned. Why not? Film is a response to reality, and there's nothing wrong with responding to reality creatively. But it is incumbent to the viewer to always remember that they are watching poetry, not data.

    In a lot of ways, I sometimes prefer obviously fictionalized films to supposed documentaries. The confident, seemingly-omniscient Narrator we associate with non-fiction films is, in his own way, the most subtle and dangerous lie of all. I'd rather see an openly fictional work that takes its cue from people's real lives than a deceptively "objective" account of the same event, that seems inarguable due to its bland informative format, but which deep down is just as biased. The Patriot is a blatant historical lie, but if the audience doesn't realize that they're watching propaganda by the time that the titular character is seen heroically leaping across a battlefield with a giant American flag in hand, ducking the explosions all around like the protagonist of an action figure toy commercial and then using the damn thing as a knight's lance of all things, then frankly they deserve to be fooled! Whereas Yorktown Minutes, the documentary series they show at the National Park visitor center at the site of the same battle is, though much more accurate in many respects, also more deceptive in its simple declarative statements and quiet pro-American shading, and it would take serious historical study for the average visitor to realize they are being lied to about some critical details. Which is more damaging, the lie you know you're buying into, or the one that slips in unnoticed?
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

  4. Top | #4
    Contributor
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    West Hollywood
    Posts
    5,375
    Rep Power
    29
    I always have a chuckle when the movie credits start with "Inspired by true events" which roughly translated means "Almost entirely made up". Even "reality tv" shows are mostly scripted or planned out. The Crown is an interesting example, I heard that series was really popular in the UK. Certain events in it are true but there is a lot of things in it where it's not possible to know exactly what went on. It does manipulate people's opinions. The Mel Gibson movie Braveheart was another one that got some Scots all riled up for independence. As long as the disclaimer "Inspired by true events" or something like that is clearly posted, I am fine with a bit of artistic license. Oh, and The Great Escape is another one. I watched that movie just recently and it is fantastic but it was pretty far removed from actual events.

  5. Top | #5
    Veteran Member Tharmas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    1,269
    Archived
    184
    Total Posts
    1,453
    Rep Power
    75
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    As a former critic, I imagine you are familiar with famed director Francois Truffaut's famous admonition that "all film is a lie." I believe this to be true. Even the documentarian shades the truth, because the viewer encounters film as though they were seeing the situation through their own eyes, but in truth it is the film-maker who decides where that camera points, who then edits what they captured down the "most important" few minutes. Even the most seemingly direct documentation of life, then, should always be seen as suspect. Let alone overtly fictionalized works such as The Crown. You aren't even waching a historian's opinion, in that case, but a cinematic representation whose details have been chosen for pathos and thrill. Real life does not conveniently provide us with a Holly-wood style three-act structure, most of the time.

    That said:

    I don't think such media should necessarily be condemned. Why not? Film is a response to reality, and there's nothing wrong with responding to reality creatively. But it is incumbent to the viewer to always remember that they are watching poetry, not data.

    In a lot of ways, I sometimes prefer obviously fictionalized films to supposed documentaries. The confident, seemingly-omniscient Narrator we associate with non-fiction films is, in his own way, the most subtle and dangerous lie of all. I'd rather see an openly fictional work that takes its cue from people's real lives than a deceptively "objective" account of the same event, that seems inarguable due to its bland informative format, but which deep down is just as biased. The Patriot is a blatant historical lie, but if the audience doesn't realize that they're watching propaganda by the time that the titular character is seen heroically leaping across a battlefield with a giant American flag in hand, ducking the explosions all around like the protagonist of an action figure toy commercial and then using the damn thing as a knight's lance of all things, then frankly they deserve to be fooled! Whereas Yorktown Minutes, the documentary series they show at the National Park visitor center at the site of the same battle is, though much more accurate in many respects, also more deceptive in its simple declarative statements and quiet pro-American shading, and it would take serious historical study for the average visitor to realize they are being lied to about some critical details. Which is more damaging, the lie you know you're buying into, or the one that slips in unnoticed?
    For many years when I was younger I read about and studied the air war of WWII. There were two movies I loved. One was the fictional “Twelve O’Clock High,” starring Gregory Peck, which I consider one of the better war movies of any genre. The second was the combat documentary “Memphis Belle,” directed by William Wyler, which chronicled the final mission of a B-17 bomber and its crew before they were retired from combat.

    When I showed them both to my fiancée, she said she far preferred the fictional account because, she said, it really gave you the feeling of what the war was really like. That surprised me but, 30 years on, the fictional "12 O'Clock High" I remember better; it made the more lasting impression. It was more “true” I think in that it dealt with the mental and emotional exigencies of war, such as confronting visceral fear and developing the mental discipline to overcome it. On the other hand, there’s no way the aircrew wasn’t acting for the cameras in the documentary.

  6. Top | #6
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    The Sunshine State: The one with Crocs, not Gators
    Posts
    24,388
    Archived
    10,477
    Total Posts
    34,865
    Rep Power
    96
    Quote Originally Posted by TSwizzle View Post
    I always have a chuckle when the movie credits start with "Inspired by true events" which roughly translated means "Almost entirely made up". Even "reality tv" shows are mostly scripted or planned out. The Crown is an interesting example, I heard that series was really popular in the UK. Certain events in it are true but there is a lot of things in it where it's not possible to know exactly what went on. It does manipulate people's opinions. The Mel Gibson movie Braveheart was another one that got some Scots all riled up for independence. As long as the disclaimer "Inspired by true events" or something like that is clearly posted, I am fine with a bit of artistic license. Oh, and The Great Escape is another one. I watched that movie just recently and it is fantastic but it was pretty far removed from actual events.
    I don't think many Scots were particularly impressed with Braveheart as an historical piece. Even the slowest Scottish schoolchildren are probably aware that the critical tactical element in the Battle of Stirling Bridge, an element completely missing from the movie, was the actual fucking bridge.

    That was perhaps the most obvious departure from history in the movie, though it was far from the only one. It's Scottish history as it could only be related by someone who never studied Scottish history, and who sees no particular benefit in knowledge of Scottish history (beyond the names of a handful of key characters) when embarking on the telling of his tale.

    WWII is another area where the Hollywood versions rarely have a significant overlap with reality.

    Film and television are, it seems, just about the worst way to present history. There are some notable exceptions, particularly on TV, but as a rule the ratings are inversely proportional to the accuracy, and producers are well aware that big audiences mean big dollars.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •