The Fine Art of the Edit
Friday, Mar 22, 2013, 12:35 AM | Source: The Conversation
By Lauren Rosewarne
The Fine Art of the EditLauren Rosewarne, University of Melbourne
I'm always vaguely suspicious of people who don't have stories. Folks who, when you ask them what they've been up to, offer a bit of a shrug, a vague "not much". This does not make good conversation.
I have very few missions in life, one is my duty to contribute stories, anecdotes. Historically, my brother has always sceptical of them - as though I somehow need to fabricate. Such distrust however, was remedied in the dairy aisle of a supermarket recently. A swarthy wizard of a man approached me, ran his hand over my hair and said something that could have been "so fluffy" or "so frizzy". And then disappeared. My brother, looking on - brow furrowed, conceded defeat: I attract the story, baby.
Of course, the actual event is much less important than the telling: which details are played up, which are left out. Whether the wizard gets emphasised over the Woolworths backdrop. And I was thinking about this after a screening of The Imposter yesterday.
In the vein of other fabulous documentaries showcasing suspected sociopaths - think Forbidden Lie$ (2007), and Tabloid (2010) - The Imposter reminds us once again that truth is always stranger - and inevitably more seductive - than fiction.
The briefest sketch is a boy goes missing in the US and three years later, another boy turns up in Spain claiming to be the missing American. Divulging any other details would ruin the splendour.
I saw The Imposter on my brother's recommendation. One of his compliments was how fair the treatment was. And this question of fairness - or at least integrity - was on my mind throughout.
One one hand it's true: The Imposter doesn't offer easy villains or victims. Of course, just because everyone gets a word in, does not a fair treatment make.
Reenactments are spliced in with real-life video footage and every participant is edited to provide just enough detail to both answer a question and also seem deliciously cagey.
For me, that's part of the charm and also why my brother and I would disagree about just how diplomatic the film was.
A common trope in literature - but one readily identifiable in film and television too - is the Unreliable Narrator (coming soon, incidentally, a post on Gone Girl). While the idea is interesting, postmodern thinking would suggest that every narrator is as equally - and, completely unreliable - as the next.
The Imposter doesn't quite have a narrator. It does however, have a storyteller - a filmmaker - behind it. A puppetmaster, pulling our heartstrings, making us suspicious/appalled/aggrieved and strategically playing a Doobie Brothers track to set a tone and remind us that this is such a quintessentially American story. (Even if the doco was made by Brits).
In media studies, the most interesting aspect of bias is the process of story selection: which tales get broadcast and which get sidelined. This decision - this edit - is at the heart of the bias inherent in every story: what isn't being told?
The tension, the delightful drip-feed of details, is all an act of editing. Of bias.
Not a criticism by any stretch of the imagination. For a more "well-rounded" insight into this astonishing story, the onus is on us to do the research. And there's plenty out there to assist. For the entertaining version however - for the escapist, immersive joy of raconteuring at its finest, I'm very okay with the skillfully edited The Imposter.