Philosophy of the Arts


Historical documentary footage

A natural sense of melancholia overcomes one easily when watching historical documentary footage. The people one watches are all but dead and gone. Their lives, however miserable or joyful, held some kind of inner coherence, much like one’s own live does—which too will become a thing of the past in the not so far future. How to sort these feelings out, whilst looking at footage of Nazi crimes? Ethics mixes with emotionality. Which comes first, one wonders?

In contradistinction with many a documentary, or docu-drama, Peter Forgacz, in his epic series Private Hungary, uses private films found at flee markets, to recreate private stories that mix with the social history that surrounds them. The privacy of the footage removes any suggestions of watching people who try to manipulate their audience—surely their motives were absolutely innocent, as they had themselves filmed for their families’ sake?
Such authentification adds to the reality of the shots—proven by the merely causal, and hence (one assumes) non-manipulative nature of photography. This too add melancholy to ethics.

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