Errol Morris is often described as one of the best documentary filmmakers of all time. Roger Ebert says, “After twenty years of reviewing films, I haven’t found another filmmaker who intrigues me more…Errol Morris is like a magician, and as great a filmmaker as Hitchcock or Fellini.” Morris is a documentarian who created the films, ‘The Thin Blue Line’, ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ and ‘The Fog of War’. Morris is so influential because of his unique style of creating documentaries.
While making and researching ‘The Thin Blue Line’ Morris was working as a private detective. His background in this can be very clearly seen in how he conducts his interviews and how his documentaries are themed. Errol Morris’ clear directorial style is seen in how his interviews are filmed. By having his interviewees look into the lense of the camera, rather than the side like most interviews, Morris sets up a feeling of interrogation and investigation by having a camera show his face through a receiver in front of the interviewee. The way he holds these interviews gives the audience an opportunity to go through the detective journey with him. ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ is his 2008 documentary about the Abu Ghraib Scandal. The documentary consists of multiple interviews and stock footage/photographs. The interviews are held with the subjects looking into the camera, in Errol Morris’ unique fashion. Whilst watching the documentary, I found myself wondering who I believed and who was clearly lying to the camera. This is a perfect example of Morris’ directorial style. The way he conducts and interviews his subjects, allows the audience the opportunity to do the detective work and decide what they believe is the ‘truth’.
Errol Morris often speaks openly about truth and what he believes it to be. He has said in multiple interviews that he doesn’t believe that the medium of film or photography provide any truth or any falsity to something. An excerpt from a film journalist, David Chen, says ‘He recalled, “When I first started making movies, there was a received idea about how you were supposed to make a documentary. Call it whatever you want: cinéma vérité, direct cinema, blah blah blah. But it was this idea of shooting with available light, shooting with a hand-held camera, the fly-on-the-wall idea. You’re observing, you’re not interacting, you’re not altering.” The implication was that by following these rules, arbitrary or not, one might somehow be able to produce something that was “truthful.” But Morris rejected this idea. “Just because you adopt a style of shooting, somehow, truth doesn’t pop up a kind of magic meat grinder that produces the truth,” he insisted.’
I believe that the way Errol Morris looks at writing and creating documentaries is very unique and effective in what he is presenting. I enjoy his documentaries in the way they make the audience form their own opinion and hope to use it on my own work one day.
Errol Morris: Film. Errolmorris.com. Retrieved 13 June 2017, from http://errolmorris.com/biography.html
Errol Morris: Interview. (2004). Errolmorris.com. Retrieved 13 June 2017, from http://www.errolmorris.com/content/interview/believer0404.html
Morris, E. (2008). Standard Operating Procedure. Participant Media.
Chen, D. (2017). A Conversation with Errol Morris on the Nature of Truth, Photography, and Documentary – /Film. Slashfilm. Retrieved 4 July 2017, from http://www.slashfilm.com/conversation-errol-morris-nature-truth-photography-documentary/