a mystery of a different order


Here, then, is a mystery of a different order. Call it “Observations on the Mysteries of Errol Morris.” Whatever else he is doing, Morris is working out his own relationship to the documentary project, including to its other practitioners and critics. Reportedly, his next two books will look at the philosopher Thomas Kuhn, whose skepticism for scientific truth Morris abhors, and Janet Malcolm, for years the photography critic at The New Yorker and later the author of “The Journalist and the Murderer,” a book about the factually, ethically and legally troubled relationship between a reporter and a convicted killer. Knowing this, I can’t help wondering if “Believing Is Seeing” is the first installment in a three-volume attempt to make sense of the relationship between the documentarian, the documented and the truth. I hope so. For Morris, the truth is (as they say) out there; the question is how to pick our way in its direction. There is no mechanical means of doing so, he argues; the camera is never wholly obscura or lucida. Perhaps this is why Morris’s book feels so human. It combines the hubris of his ends — the desire, shared by approximately all of us, to lay claim to the truth — with the humility of his means. In “Believing Is Seeing,” Morris explores and refines our most basic way of understanding the world, which is also a plea for attention, an invitation to communal experience, an expression of urgency, an exclamation of wonder and one of our first, most important and most enduring requests of each other: Look!

more from Kathryn Schulz at the NY Times here.