Joris Ivens

In the nonfiction world, documentary filmmakers also began making films that were less tied down to specific places and specific times, and using montage to create mood or expression in a more poetic way. For example the Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens constructed stylized documentaries in the late 1920’s that consisted of disparate images juxtaposed against each other. Rain (1928), a carefully constructed experiment in avant-guard cinema, is an ode to the passing rainstorm across the city of Amsterdam, blending shots of the city captured over a period of two years. First we see the city in sun, the people, ships and cars moving in and about the city. Then we see clouds gathering on the horizon, the wind beginning to pick up, and shop owners closing their windows. The wind increases in strength and raindrops begin to plop down into the canals, and people start heading for cover and pull out umbrellas. As the downpour increases in strength, we are treated to a litany of images, details that someone might notice while it rains, the water drops on a window, the drip coming off the roof, the reflection of light off of the wet streets, et cetera. Finally the raindrops begin to slow, and the sky clears of clouds, and we are left with images of puddles and wet rooftops, and the sun comes out once again over the city.


– from the upcoming book “How to Film the Truth: The Story of Documentary Film As a Spiritual Journey” to be released in the Summer of 2018 by Wipf & Stock