Friday, March 2, 2012

There are indeed many talented documentary filmmakers with brilliant sociopolitical messages for the world, etc. Their messages are essential for people to consider and understand. Whilst important, too many of them follow an information-bias agenda. Errol Morris, with thirty plus years of documentary skill, seems to have always followed a different drum. Although he has accumulated his own filmic style, it is the subject matter within most of his films that has placed Morris in a high position of influence within the documentarian community. Morris would likely disagree with his informal, yet recognized status. Admirably, though, his films show no signs of progressive egotism.

He is indeed consistent in many areas of subject ranging from sexual relations, occupations, and violence. Perhaps the most intriguing of his work are the films that share in a universally spellbinding topic--Death. The death procedure, rather. How it operates, who's to blame, what it looks like, how it is admired, and the consequences. Morris works are just cleverly weird, especially since death is their common denominator.

Death's unfolding may be a worldwide phenomena, but to describe this phenomena, Morris amusingly begins and ends with the--usually unorthodox--individual point of view. His often bizarre interviewees attest to the rather commonplace idea that death and its significance can indeed be a state of mind. Whether there is any vitality or sadness to be gained from death, it is a decision perhaps best located in the subjective experience. Taken together, the odd bird interviewees of the Morris series create a panorama of differential opinion.

His subjects are without doubt odder than the average person odd--if such exists, anyway--and to hear their separate view points on death is almost as fascinating as it is overwhelmingly uncomfortable. Morris films are able to convince the viewer that the director has nothing to do with what you see. The interviewees steal the show. Their words, their faces, and their body language take up most of the viewer's attention. Not to say Morris isn't crucial to the equation, of course he is, but the people he finds and places in front of the camera practically make up the entire story.

Morris brings to light that there are interesting people who often become caught up in the varying degrees of death. I think viewers should probably thank him for doing so. Each degree of death is enthralling in its own way. Whether the film explains the instrumentation involved in dying (Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.), or the morality in killing, there is someone to illustrate its rationale. If there is a mass, prolonged execution, like a war, or the infliction of the feeling of death--all as a means to a collective end--, someone from either Standard Operating Procedure or The Fog of War will attempt to validate such actions. Say death is out of cold blood,--a sociopath claiming his or her victims--, then The Thin Blue Line may answer some of the "why?" questions so commonly asked of murderers, even without a direct, coherent answer. Upon reflection, Errol Morris films generally assert that death, whether intentional or say, natural, is tricky. Nonetheless enthralling. Errol Morris, bringing his own curiosities to the field, has for a long time now understood the human's inability to comprehend its universal power. Morris has therefore set out to discover death's many capacities. His subjects of film  shouldn't be dismissed. If they are found repulsive in nature, they can certainly serve as an ethical no-no. Nonetheless, the intrigue over mortality remains.

In conclusion, Errol Morris films have predominantly discussed the process of death since his career beginning. Gates of Heaven, his debut documentary, launched this engrossing series of works on the topic. Perhaps the paramount aspect to these films is that, despite their focus on the dreadfulness of death, there is a penetrating unconventionality to their storylines. It isn't that I don't take death gravely, but like Morris maybe wonders himself(?), "why on earth does death happen the way it does? If it affects all of us, shouldn't there be a collective agreement over how it is handled/processed?" Anyway, Errol Morris films are definitely worth the mental and emotional fun.