{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Thin Blue Line

Errol Morris' A Thin Blue Line examines a case of shooting of a police officer in Dallas and the procedure followed to find the culprit. 28 years old Randall Adams, who was with a 16 year old kid, David Harris (who becomes the chief prosecution witness against Adams) in his blue comet, was convicted of murder of a Texas Police officer, while all the evidence pointed elsewhere. Made in a style of re-enactment of the crime scenes, although it seems outdated due to the flush of TV crime reports on similar lines, this documentary is a very honest effort, both in terms how justice suffers from self-interest and wishful thinking, and also how the procedures of justice are not about truth finding, but just finding something/someone and closing the case. The conviction of Randall Adams was overturned when after the release of the documentary.

Here is a very interesting interview with Errol Morris. He says few things about truth, and how physical truth is absolute. And how style doesn't guarantee any truth. And to me this observation seemed quite true

I looked at Rashomon about a month ago. I re-watched it, and much to my
surprise, Rashomon isn't Rashomon. Rashomon is not a movie about the
subjectivity of truth. That there's no objective truth, just subjective truth. A
truth for you, a truth for me. On the contrary, it's a movie about how everybody
sees the world differently. But the claim that everybody sees the world
differently, is not a claim that there's no reality. It's a different kind of
claim. What really surprised me on re-watching Rashomon is that you know what
really happened at the end. It's pretty damn clear. Kurosawa gives you the
pieces of evidence that allow you to figure out what really happened. So, it's
not what many people imagine it to be, but it is a very powerful story about
self-interest, about wishful thinking, about self-deception, about people
imagining scenarios at variance with the truth. And so I found Rashomon to be
far more interesting than I had remembered it. With an underlying theme very
much like The Thin Blue Line. Truth exists, but people have a vested interest in
not knowing it.

Here is definitely a bifurcation, between the types of truth - the physical and the more complex metaphysical(I don’t know, is it the correct term but I am talking about something more abstract like truth about love and truth about life). What I feel at this moment that most of the times the efforts to find a wrong doer on physiological terms results in some gross generalization of evil (with phrases like "all man are dormant portals of evil") and that in tern results in lot of everyday injustice. Like in this case, Randall was thought to be a evil doer because, according to the police, he showed no remorse (like one of the police officer says "He overacted his innocence"). At this point, I should also see that when David Harris accepted his crime, he too showed no remorse. Actually, he was even more rational and cool headed as he said that Randall would have been saved if he had a place to stay, a perfect logic, but without a trace of remorse. I mean, if its so vague then how can “lack of guilt and remorse” can be generalized as a symptom of a criminal mind. Harris David also says some more direct and ironical in this last interview. He says "Criminals always lie", and its ironical because he is one, and it is also ironical because whenever any interrogation of a potential convict happens, it is invariably assumed that the he is a criminal, so does it matter whatever he says. I think, evidence gathering is a balance between doubt and rationality. And then comes the people like forensic psychiatrist, Dr. James Grigson (who was called Mr. Death after having testified in more than 100 trials that resulted in death sentences, actually Morris went to Dallas to take his interview but stumbled on Randall Adams case, who was one of Dr, Death's victim), and his vague psychoanalysis of Randall and his proclamation that if left free, he will be grave danger to society. It looks jarring that these types of analysis take precedence to any physical evidence. Even Errol Morris goes on to show a blurred picture of Harris' troubled childhood. I know these things matter, but my question always remains, what should be given more priority in an investigation. And the most interesting of all is Emily Miller, whose testimony finally results in the conviction of Randall. Its the most frightening interview, you can see, where the face of Emily glows when she says that she always wanted to be a detective, or else wife of a detective, and she is so watchful that sees murders everywhere.

And this part of the Errol Morris' interview of also very insightful. Here he talks about the fine line between reality and fiction.

When Capote wrote In Cold Blood, he called it a non-fiction novel. I remember
when I was a little boy and In Cold Blood came out, I got very depressed,
because I would read these long, long conversations that he supposedly
remembered in their entirety. I thought: how can he do it? I need a tape
recorder. I can't remember when I'm talking to someone for 10 hours what they've
said verbatim. I just can't do it. I can't do it. I'd like to be able to do it,
but I can't. And here was Capote writing pages of this stuff. And I thought, I'm
never going to be able to do that, and I was right, I'm never going to be able
to do that. And of course the question is whether Capote was able to do it.
Whether he was just able to write extremely well about the conversations after
the fact. Whether he was making stuff up.


Alok said...

I have only seen his Fog of War. This looks very interesting too.

Anonymous said...