As Broinowski comments, “Norma’s awareness of the camera was always acknowledged, it had to be, because she’s a performer” The films constant acknowledgement of the camera and crew, elaborately constructed mise-en-scene and staged reenactments “gives emphasis to the encounter between filmmaker and viewer” (Nichols, p.60). These reflexive techniques are an admission that the presence of the camera has the power to greatly affect what the subject will do or say. Here, Broinowski is communicating to the viewer that they should take all that Khouri says with a ‘very big grain of salt’. Khouri is aware of her surroundings and has the power to manipulate and deceive both Broinowski and the viewer. These techniques however also work to show the highly constructive nature of film itself and power that cinema holds to deceive the audience that regardless of style and approach one clear version of the truth is unobtainable. Forbidden Lie$ carries with it a very clear message, ‘trust no-one’, not the social actors, the director or anybody. Everybody has his or her own agenda.
Alternatively, The observational approach of Pennebaker lends the viewer to believe that he was so unobtrusive with his filming that he could capture reality without imposing on it, capturing the ‘unguarded moment’. However, In Dont Look Back, Dylan rarely, if ever, lets his defenses down to show the ‘real Dylan’. Much like Dylan is a performer on stage, emitting a stylized personality to the live audience, he is also performing in front of the camera for the benefit of films audience. Aware of Pennebaker’s presence, Dylan self-consciously stages the events that unfold in front of the camera in order to further shape his established intelligent, abrupt and artistic persona. Admittedly, Pennebaker has described Dylan’s ‘performance’ in Don’t Look Back as “a guy ‘acting’ out his life” and consequently see’s the film as more abstract and musical than informative.
Whether consciously or not, and irrelevant of style, the filmmaker, the subject and the viewer have ideological assumptions and discourses ingrained in their work or actions that have the potential to alter the projection and reception of ‘the truth’. In Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker himself is mounting a critique of the media and uses Dylan’s own hostility and mocking of mainstream media to reinforce his position. While Dylan has a clear ideological disdain for the media’s censorship and subjectivity, using most interviews with the press captured on film to mock, criticize and put down the media, this is not solely an opportunity for Dylan to assert his beliefs in public. This discourse, shared by subject and filmmaker, is again a way for Dylan to show off in front of the camera and establish a persona, as Pennebaker says, “he liked the idea of being an intellectual youth.” It is also however, a convenient way for Pennebaker to paint an idealised picture of Dylan that suits the both of them.
Furthermore, the perspectives and observations of those interviewing Dylan aren’t fairly explored, they are used rather to compliment the discourse of Dylan and Pennekbaker. Similarly, Pennebaker selectively edited the film together to include extended scenes of Dylan’s harsh dealings with the press. In this sense the film has an agenda and can be seen as a sort of collaboration between Dylan and Pennebaker, working together to string their own ideological discourse throughout the film. The effect on the viewer however also relies on their pre-existing knowledge and beliefs of the medias manipulative power to sensor and shape the viewers responses.
Similarly, in Forbidden Lie$, Khouri’s contempt for Jordanian Muslin men is both portrayed in her book ‘Forbidden Love’ and on screen, implying all Jordanian men are barbaric and don’t uphold the same ‘liberal’ values as the west. Broinowsky unconsciously supports these western ideologies by employing a Hollywood style narrative structure that the western audience can relate to. Furthermore, the film revels in the discovery that many Muslim women in Jordan are not suppressed as Khouri described, (forced to wear burqas and escorted by men), but are liberated like western woman, this ‘surprise’ discovery pandering to the negative Western perception of Islam. By adopting the Barthes way of thinking however, the meaning of the image will vary depending on the viewer’s existing beliefs. The films style and meta-discourse is then subject to the interpretations of the viewer.
The reach for ‘the truth’ moves further out of grasp as one considers that not only the filming process (with subjects ‘acting’) but also the pre and postproduction of many films, is at the mercy or approval of the films subjects and those with a vested interest. In Forbidden Lie$, by actively deceiving Broinowski by withholding valuable information and telling lies, Khouri exercises her power to control the content of the film and thus control the viewer’s access ‘the truth’. At one point in the film, Khouri does provide Broinowski with some valuable ‘evidence’, by sending her a home video recording of herself talking with her ‘bodyguard’ about how she purposefully deceived Broinowsky and “had to lead her down this path” of false names and locations to protect herself and others. However, Kouri further manipulates the films content by editing the footage herself before sending it to Broinowski. In effect, Khouri has become a co-director in the film, controlling the content and the viewers’ access to information.
Similarly, In Dont Look Back, the fact that Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman approached Pennebaker to make a documentary on Dylan the very staged nature of the film, rendering it more a paid artistic advertisement for ‘Bob Dylan’ ‘the brand’, rather than an informative piece. Throughout the filming process, Dylan further exercised his control over the content of the film. “I don’t want you to film anymore” Dylan would order Pennebaker in an effort to protect his image. Likewise, the opening prologue of Dylan flashing cards to Subterranean Homesick Blues was Dylan’s idea of which he no doubt expected its inclusion in the film. Dylan’s level of control over the films themes and content and Grossman’s expectations, ultimately limited Pennebaker’s access to material, control and total creativity.
While Filmmakers may incorporate varying stylistic and technical devices in creating documentary films, each approach has its own limitations in acquiring and representing ‘the truth’. The embedded assumptions and ideologies in the text and the relationship between the filmmaker, subject and viewer can ultimately affect the viewers’ interpretation of the film. Due to the necessary presence of the camera, the ‘true’ nature and unguarded moments of a subject can’t be obtained, and any effort to provoke the truth is subject to the social actor and viewers response. Therefore, the creative techniques employed by a filmmaker, can only serve as an artistic expression to engage the viewer and ‘investigate’ the truth, not present it.