Friday 11 October 2013

The Thin Blue Line [1988]

There aren’t many documentary films that have been as canonized as Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line; after all, how many artistic works have managed to help free a wrongly convicted man! On 27th November 1978 in Dallas, a police officer on graveyard shift was shot multiple times without any provocations by an unknown occupant of a car, and he died as a result. Two men turned out to be the principal protagonists of this shocking incident - 28-year old Randall Adams who had made a chance stopover in the city and didn’t have any criminal records, and 16-year old delinquent David Ray Harris who had stolen the car from which the shooting had taken place and was on a crime spree. Even though logic might suggest that David should have been the prime suspect for the massive investigation that followed, the burden to prove innocence fell on Randall. Number of investigational, legal and procedural anomalies and shortcomings later, he was sentenced to death, which was subsequently turned to life. Morris made the interesting decision of doing away with voiceovers, and instead relied just on first-person interviews of all key players, and, by employing ‘Rashomon Effect’, recreation of the incident from multiple perspectives. Though all the interviews were highly illuminating, those of the two men, in particular, were deeply affecting for their disarming candidness, and the ensuing insights into their minds and lives was quietly devastating. Though largely devoid of any larger commentary and comprising of a few choices that were tad distracting, the excellent score, tightness of the narrative and disquieting effectiveness of the interviews, made this an emotionally engrossing watch.

Director: Errol Morris
Genre: Documentary
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

Yep, this is unquestionably one of the most brilliant documentaries of the past 30 years, and for many Morris' masterpiece in a career with a number of exceptional works. Again you have chronicled it's style and worth exceedingly well. I remember the various ways that time was shown, like the burning cigarettes in ashtrays.

Shubhajit said...

Yeah, the importance & relevance of perspectives, and how they, in conjunction with personal prejudices, backgrounds, etc. influence one's stand, was aptly stressed in it. But what I liked most about it were the really candid & at times disturbing interviews. Apparently Morris had devised a way to ensure that the interviewees direct their gazes at the camera without being aware of it - that gave a feeling as they're looking directly at us and speaking to us in confidence, which was quite affecting at times.