Last time, I wrote about Nichols’s was when I analysed “Birth of a Book” by Glen Milner in this post here. Now I want to analyse the following video in relation to Nichols’s documentary mode and what is the problem with it.
Like the title said this video is about the married couple with a Kumara farm in New Zealand how they saved the Kumara. What is really striking about the documentary is that it is told by the narrator like an old fairy tale and it is really enjoyable to watch it. It is kind of poetic how the narration rhymes and fits with the beautiful pictures.
Now if one tries to classify the short documentary into one of Nichols’s modes, one will see that it is not really easy to do so. The six different documentary modes by Nichols are the expository, poetic, observational, participatory, reflexive and performative mode and in which of these can this documentary fit in?
Due to the rhymes and its fairy tale like nature the video seems more like a short fictional film than a documentary. Most of Nichol’s modes fall out because of little things like the interaction between the characters and the narrator (e.g. at one time Mrs. Gock finishes the sentence with a perfect rhyme). The viewer is aware that this is staged and performed, mostly because there is this scene in which they “show” the earlier years of the farm.
The biggest problem with Nichols’ theory is explained by a documentary filmmaker. De Bromhead criticizes Nichols’ modes because Nichols sees the documentary as rational and as a reflection of the reality. De Bromhead argues that documentary is more than about reality and rationality, it is about empathy and emotion too. This short documentary about the Gocks is emotional and people respond emotionally to it like finding the couple “sweet” and having a warmed heart after seeing it (to exaggerate). It is more subjective than objective since it focuses not only on the Kumara but on the relationship between the Gocks too.
In short, documentaries are not only a reflection of the reality like Nichols said, it affects the viewer in an emotional sense.