There’s a film (not nominated for Best Picture, probably incorrectly) called The Thin Blue Line, which doesn’t really distinguish between narrative fiction and fictional narrative, but asks the audience to follow incredibly closely and decide for themselves what happened. Errol Morris took this film in a brilliant direction as each person watching the movie (documentary?) was asked to examine their own biases for the name of fairness, correctness, and real life tragedy. His work is an important distinction and groundbreaking in that before The Thin Blue Line, film was very obviously either true or false; a director took license only where absolutely necessary. A few hypotheses why this was the case, in order from probably the truth to certainly not the truth:
- Technical limitations set the parameters for what could be staged, shot, edited, and pressed. Until the advent of more advanced cameras and computers and software to handle the ambition, storytellers limited their ideas to plausible narratives and the naturally insane.
- Film was expensive, and filming too much more in the wayward sense of exposition and exploration, would have driven budgets beyond what a financier would consider “acceptable” overruns.
- Inventing a whole new type of storytelling takes a bold visionary, and they had not yet come along.
- Audiences cared much more and were entirely more naive about what was truth and what was not. Critical narratives were not readily accessible and without them audiences could not fathom a distinction between manipulative intent and honesty.
- There was no incentive or market to bust up inertia and jump-start creativity [Ed. – This might be true in the 2010s, somewhat]
This last point is not true, though film in the mid-to late 1980s had lost some of the ferocity brought forth starting in the late 1960s and The Thin Blue Line had started to shake up some of the storytelling techniques that would carry forward, especially into Oliver Stone’s JFK in 1990 and lots of neo-noir works like LA Confidential in 1997 and Mystic River in 2003. There was a cascading acceptance of newness toward the late 1980s. Continue reading