Errol Morris returns to his Times blog for the first time since his examination of the Roger Fenton photographs and covers re-enactments in documentary films, a technique he pioneered in the excellent The Thin Blue Line, and how it applies to truth in photography.
Critics argue that the use of re-enactments suggest a callous disregard on the part of a filmmaker for what is true. I don’t agree. Some re-enactments serve the truth, others subvert it. There is no mode of expression, no technique of production that will instantly produce truth or falsehood. There is no veritas lens — no lens that provides a “truthful” picture of events. There is cinema verite and kino pravda but no cinematic truth.
Is the problem that we have an unfettered capacity for credulity, for false belief, and hence, we feel the need to protect ourselves from ourselves? If seeing is believing, then we better be damn careful about what we show people, including ourselves — because, regardless of what it is — we are likely to uncritically believe it.