Is a documentary always more realistic than fiction film? If so, why? If not, why not? What makes a film more or less realistic?
In this essay, I will explain why a documentary is always more realistic than a fiction film. I will show my thesis by exploring elements that influence how realistic a film is: film editing and format, genre, and transparency. I will use the documentary of Armadillo (2010), by Janus Pedersen, and the fiction film of The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968), by Danièle Huille as examples.
To begin with, some of the significant differences between documentaries and fiction films are transparency and aesthetics. Documentaries present existing, authentic ...view middle of the document...
Hence, the film’s editing makes it artistic. Another example of fictional film elements comes from when the cameraman perfectly records the Taliban attacking the Danish soldiers. He puts himself in danger: right in the middle of the fight. If the audience did not know any better, this fight could have been perfectly staged. It is as if the purpose of Pedersen were to create an entertainment film using a real life situation, rather than to document a real life event.
Also, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is a fiction film that could be considered more realistic than a documentary of Armadillo’s nature. The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach aims to show the life of Johann Sebastian Bach recounted in second person by his wife, Anna Magdalena. Although the movie is fictional, Huille uses stimuli proper of documentaries that support the film’s narrative. An example of this comes from authentic letters and manuscripts from J.S. Bach presented in the film. This provides the audience with a veritable account of J.S. Bach’s life; thus, it increases the film’s realism.
Nonetheless, because of Armadillo’s transparency, it will always be more realistic than The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach. Despite the use of extended shots on musical scores and original J.S. Bach transcripts that make the film resemble a documentary, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is just a reproduction of J.S. Bach’s life. No matter how real the film appears to be, it is a “pseudorealism of a deception aimed at fooling the eye,” just because it was an acted film. It relies on deception. Therefore, Armadillo is more realistic than The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach.
In conclusion, based on The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach and Armadillo, transparency is what predominantly makes a film more or less realistic. Thus, this is an example that shows documentaries are more realistic than fiction films. However, Huille’s film may be, in Picasso’s words, “a lie that brings us closer to the truth,” because it is a lot more transparent...