© 2013 kpeters3

“Stranger With A Camera” & Expository Documentary Mode

The expository mode is the first documentary mode to combine the four elements of documentary. It addresses the audience directly, advancing an argument, all while staying completely objective. These types of documentaries speak directly to the viewer with voice-over (sometimes referred to as “voice-of-God commentary,” where the speaker is heard but never seen) as images serve to illustrate what is being said. Unlike most films where images play the leading role, in expository documentaries, images are a supporting role.  As Nichols explains, the mode gives priority to spoken word in order to convey a film’s perspective from a single, unifying source (154).

Stranger With A Camera fits into the expository mode of documentary in that it gives an impression of objectivity. The film does a great job of giving both sides of the story and remaining sensitive to the people who were subject of the film. Nanook of the North, Night Mail, and Night and Fog are some other examples of documentaries we have watched in class that fit into the expository mode. When comparing Stranger With A Camera to Night and Fog, there are a few similarities as well as differences. They both do an excellent job of portraying events that took place and both use narration, or “voice-of-God” throughout the film. The two differ in that one, Stranger With A Camera, is objective, remaining neutral for the entirety of the film, while Night and Fog couldn’t possibly be objective about such heavy, heartbreaking occurrences.

Stranger With A Camera differs from Nanook of the North in that there are no words, no narration, in Nanook. The images and happenings we see in Nanook not only illustrate, but they tell the story itself. We rely on them to gather any and all information about his life. It amazes me how much one can take away from that film even though it never once speaks to us (using actual words).

Bill Nichols has much to say in regards to film “voice.” In documentary film, voice gives perspective and logic. It involves how things are framed. “Voice of perspective” speaks through a filmmaker’s decisions about selection and arrangement of images and sounds (75). Voice combines some of the elements of rhetoric (invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery) and evokes feeling from an audience.

One of the most crucial jobs of a documentary filmmaker is to be true to the experiences of people. And I believe Elizabeth Barret’s Stranger With A Camera does an excellent job of doing so while being sensitive and showing poverty without shaming the people.

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