Werner Herzog is a very well respected documentary filmmaker. He has many master classes and a lot of knowledge on documentary, but within this blog post I aim going to focus on Herzog’s ‘ecstatic truth’.
Ecstatic truth is the idea that there is a deeper truth to something and a way of pushing this deeper truth is though ”fabrication and imagination and stylisation” (Ebert 1999). Simply meaning, recreating something in order to find truth within it.
Some ways in which Herzog creates this is through staging scenes, and keeping the camera rolling once the ‘performance’ has finished in order to gain a real reaction from the subjects. I believe this can create a sense of an overwhelming feeling for the subjects, especially if its staging an important personal thing. Such as, receiving the watch of a dead love one, once the facade fades away, the emotions that come afterwards, are so surreal that it pushes for a deep truth, a deeper emotion (Haven Of Singles 2016).
As my documentary involves some stylised, created scenes. I could go as far as showing the subjects these scenes, and film their honest reactions. This would be an interesting element to add to the documentary, and would also be a great way of testing if my documentary is powerful.
Herzog, often falls under the category of docudrama whereby things have been created in order to push the truth. This is a very controversial, genre but arguments that support docudrama include the fact that a documentary cannot be objective. There will always be forms of manipulation and thus, the truth has been altered (Flaherty n.d.).
I believe this will apply to my documentary, as some may wonder how created scenes count as ‘documentary.’ However, it is to my understand that the idea of documentary is very controversial and what is considered ‘factual’ changes with time. As I intend to place real interview audio over the top of these recreated scenes, this is the way in which my documentary will be factual, as I am not recreating the story per-se. But instead, am enhancing the truth through aesthetic stylisation.
Jong, Wilma de, and Thomas Austin. Rethinking Documentary, edited by Wilma de Jong, and Thomas Austin, McGraw-Hill Education, 2008