Realism and Film. Sherman March
Sherman March is a documentary based on a series of romantic misadventures encountered during a road trip the Southern part of America. The misadventure is captured in camera and it is through this that the various roles of a camera are realized. According to the film, Sherman March, some of the most noticeable roles are depicted by the camera’s ability to articulate one or two persons in various forms in a continually developing story. Cameras also bring out a perplexing distinction between filmmaking and experience. The role of the camera is also to capture the vanishing ways of life, transform visions and expose any injustices. Generally, the camera is a critical eye in life because it captures and represents the world around us.
The camera also achieves various things such as the ability to capture events without the film maker necessarily intruding. The camera also has the capability to introduce or present a character within the imaginary in that, the character is able to be seen by the viewers and at the same time heard as he comments on various things. It is therefore clear that a camera does not simply record what happens but it also it witnesses the acts and events as they happen. From the film, it is evident that the camera exposes the intricacy of the Southern race from within. The use of a camera, according to the film is a way of interconnecting with life. It ignites a certain response from the characters being filmed. McElwee confirms that to him, the camera takes the character and the one filming into places they wouldn’t ordinarily go geographically but both emotionally and psychologically. Also, cameras reveal inner realities through the act of filming. This is depicted by McElwee’s ironic, playful voice-over tone which is deprecated as dictatorial. The camera tends to achieve the act of showing rather than telling, whereby one establishes location, the story transition and reduce narration. Movements such as zooms and pans, which are common when using a camera, tend to deepen or serve as advancement in the film. When McElwee films his subjects, he closely zooms some of them mainly to lay emphasis or pass a certain message to the audience. This also reduces visual destruction. In the case of Sherman March, any viewer would feel that they are taking part in the conversations with McElwee rather than watching a monologue. Therefore, the camera achieves the confidence of the audience.
In this film, the camera makes it possible for the viewer to know the filmic persona’s of various characters. For example, the viewer is introduced to McElwee’s hopes, fears, concerns and even his ability to forge relationships. The camera, according to this film reveals what is not normally seen, that is the oppression of the black people. However, the camera portrays the diversity of experiences that the races share. It is also clear that the camera captures real life events. According to McElwee, a camera is a way of meeting new people, specifically women and being exposed to various things in general. The camera also presents people for what they are and it does not give a false personality of an individual. This is shown in the scene where the survivalists say one cannot trust communists. McElwee feels that such people need to be laughed at by the viewers for their bad acts. Through the camera’s color effect, the viewers normal vision is mimicked hence giving a heightened sense of realism to motion pictures. This enhances capturing the attention of the viewer. Cameras make it possible for the interaction between the filmmakers and the subjects which occurs during the process of making a film. Consequently, the subjects are made to show their thoughts and feelings that they often conceal (Dawson 9). Therefore, a collaborative relationship between the subjects and the filmmaker is considered necessary. This is shown by McElwee through his good relationship with his subjects such as her sister, wife, Winnie and other girlfriends. The camera makes it possible for a character to play more than one character role hence, utilizing his talent. A notable scene is when McElwee appears as General Sherman thus playing the two roles (Dawson 6). The camera makes it possible for the filmmaker to exercise and express their artistic ambitions and talents through the time they invest in fieldwork, thus, ensuring quality film production. Cameras also enable good audio recording by ensuring that the microphone records the voices clearly. This is achieved by staying silent, avoiding distracting sounds and listening to your subject. In Sherman March, McElwee rarely talks, it is mainly his subjects who keep talking and reacting differently in various circumstances. Transitional shifting from one scene to another where the scene’s visual darkens to black is also another feature the camera makes possible during filming. Also, different scenes can be shot differently without chronologically following each other and then edited and organized well later on.
The camera creates the potentiality to explore what is not obviously seen or acted on. For example in the film, Sherman’s March investigates the paralysis that occurs when people talk about their emotions rather than act them. The camera creates a unique bonding with the characters in that they are motivated to act for apparatus consequently producing quality work. From the film, McElwee creates a character in him who uses the camera as a method of flattery thus convincing his female subjects that the lens is actually an extension of his heart. Through some of McElwee’s action in the film, it is clear that the camera creates a good environment for an individual to fight or get rid of his own problems. This is depicted in McElwee’s struggle between his conscious thoughts and subconscious desires seen when he uses the camera to end his relationship with Karen, the lawyer. Had McElwee wanted Karen to love her, he would have put the camera aside and convinced her of his seriousness. Also, the camera creates a feeling of confusion when one is filming his own family. This is because one is tempted to spend time with the people he loves rather than to film. Hence, this type on filmmaking rises questions such as is one is really apart from life observing it or a part of the life itself, participating in it. Through cameras, new levels of interactivity are enhanced in that the camera is viewed as a psychoanalytic stimulant which enables participation of action and revelation of certain character traits. The camera creates a suitable environment for events to unfold and be recorded in their natural setting thus capturing reality. This is evident when McElwee films Karen and how she reacts towards the filming. Using a camera is somehow advantageous because one has an opportunity to edit and get rid of the unnecessary footages such as cough, background noises and other audio glitches. Also, one can cut off some captions which don’t match with the theme of the film.
Although the camera brings out a lot of good things when in use, it may also prevent some things from taking place appropriately. For example, the characters may respond to the camera being there, but in real sense they are interacting to you having a camera pointed at them. This is evident in the scene with the survivalists where there seems to be no connection between the camera and the subjects. Also, when one is filming his own family, they tend to lack the freedom of being themselves due to fear, shyness or respect for the elders. Therefore, this may hinder the quality of the intended message or caption of the camera. This is manifested in the scene were McElwee indifferently films his wife Marilyn compared to the way he films the other women. When filming the other women he tends to be obsessed with the slightest details of their lives such as how they put on their makeup, how their hair looks like and how they fix it. Sometimes the camera may prove to be challenging in that the filmmaker has no control over the occurrences that happen during the process of shooting a film. For example in the film, McElwee cannot control being criticized by others in the film, he also cannot control being in relationships with several women. Through the camera, the film maker controls what his audience should or should not see. This is a disadvantage to the target audience because the information in the film may be biased or false, therefore, denying the audience its right to truth.
Cameras can also frustrate the characters. This is because filming takes advantage of the vulnerability of people. It is generally a violation of some sort; it’s basically an invasion of privacy. This is evident in the scene where Karen, the ERA activist and the attorney tell McElwee to stop filming them, she actually tells him not once but three times. This is a suggestion of indictment in film-making. The camera is also considered as a catalyst, it is a means of forcing situations. This is depicted through McElwee’s conversation with Jackie, the antinuclear activists where he asks, “Do you want to get married?” this question is believed to have been motivated by the presence of the camera. This is because one is often after something such as some information with the camera. McElwee affirms that he uses the camera in the film Sherman March to take advantage of people; he exploits their goodwill, their friendship with him and their trust towards him.
Cameras tend to thwart some information that may be of interest to the viewer. In the film Sherman March, McElwee is not explicit about his sexual involvement with the women in the film. According to him, he feels that such information is not relevant to his audience and therefore leaves it hidden. This somehow hinders the characters from bringing out their true image because the viewer feels that some information is concealed. The camera does not see things in three dimensions like the eye; rather, it sees in two dimensions, therefore, visual clutter such as light switches, plants, direct sunlight, dim lighting and other objects behind the subject may prevent good quality productivity in that the audience may concentrate on those objects rather than the intended message. This also lowers the quality of the film.
In conclusion, it is evident that the camera speaks more than we all know. It basically sees what is beyond the ordinary. It is able to create unique images and pass informative information. It can also be used as a means of storing information for future use. The camera dictates what the viewer should or should not see. It captures real life events and provokes the expression of the thoughts and feelings of various characters which they normally keep concealed.
Sherman’s March dir. McElwee, Ross. 16mm film, colour, USA. 1986. Film.
Dawson, Victoria. “The Filmmaker-persona in the essay film: Sherman’s March| Macquarie University ResearchOnline.” (2011).
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