Essay on the documentary film Leviathan (2012)

Christopher Sciacca wrote an interesting essay

Toward a New Truth in Sound: Expanding the boundaries of Direct Cinema (2015)

available at

Since the emergence of Direct Cinema in the late 1950’s, documentary films have  presupposed a more accurate “claim of truth” over their subject matter.  Advancements in portable recording technology after World War II allowed documentarians to dissolve the line between subject and object using un-obtrusive camera and sound recording techniques, often regarded as the “fly on the wall”  style. From the Arriflex 35 and Nagra III audio recorder to the advent of the GoPro, direct cinema has evolved in concordance with the capabilities of new technology. Direct cinema’s attempt to display “reality” through a strict code of aesthetics not only relies on the visual “outside observer” model, but must also take into account an accurate representation of sound and soundscape. What role then does sound play in constructing reality where verbal narration and non-diegetic music is absent? The latest ethnographic film of Harvard’s Sensory  Ethnography Lab, Leviathan (2012) will be examined as the forefront of the new direct cinema style. This immersive film provides a heightened sense of reality remarkably without the aid of traditional sound design. Since the idea of film-truth is debatable, can artistic integrity outweigh the actuality of events, or is the concept of truth supplanted by a more visceral, experiential understanding through stimulating new camera techniques and rich soundscapes?

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