Tension Between the Pastoral and the Prophetic

The evolution of style and approach that we see in Huston during his war years illustrates the tension that was going on in the world of documentary between the pastoral and the prophetic voice. We might say the desire to comfort and reassure, versus the desire to question and upset. After Houston’s Let There Be Light, one is left with the sense that the injustices of war cannot be quantified, or even fully understood. The prophetic voice here takes on the character of a lament, a mourning for the lives lost in The Battle of San Pietro (staging of events notwithstanding), and the personalities lost in Let There Be Light. Due to the care with which Houston treated his characters, there is a certain intimacy, particularly in Let There Be Light, that straightforward expository films tended to lack. As we shall see, the next stage of development in documentary would seek to highlight and embrace that intimacy, and create space for the subjects and the audience to commune in unexpected ways.



– 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