Sunday, August 23, 2009

But What Is Truth?

Tim Abbott over at Walking the Berkshires has a couple of interrelated posts up. The elder offers a top ten double feature of historical dramas like Beckett and the Lion in Winter. Made at different times they still go together. Tim -- like the old actor, Henry, in The Fantasticks -- not only knows the ropes, but the ropes to skip. The second post points derisively at these.
Perusing them I was reminded of a young cinematographer manqué I once worked with back when Z was the heartthrob of all radical filmmakers. I was teaching a course in adaptation, turning a Mark Twain short story into a film.
Naturally the discussion in those very contentious years swirled around how true -- how faithful -- we could be to the text. At one point the C. M. stood up to announce: "The camera never lies."
"It never does anything else." I might have retorted.
Because the photographer chooses the subject, the frame, the mood, the lighting, the shutter speed and every other influence on the result, the camera cannot be a "warts and all" record of an event. The camera cannot help but lie -- that is, tell considerably less than the full reality of the subject.

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