The Expository Mode (voice of God)
The mode most associated with documentary. Assumes a logical argument and a 'right' and 'proper' answer using direct address and offering preferred meaning to the audience. Most associated with Television News Programming and Nature and History documentaries
- 'Voice of God' narration directly addressing the viewer,
- Direct relationship between images and voice-over,
- Interviews used only in support of the film's argument,
-A conventional narrative structure,
- A narrator who many appear as a 'character' in the film
The Poetic Mode (subjective, artistic expression)
The poetic mode of documentary moves away from the 'objective' reality of a given situation or people to grasp at an inner 'truth' that can only be grasped by poetical manipulation.
- Emphasized visual associations, tonal or rhythmic qualities, descriptive passages,
-The formal organization favours mood, tone and texture.
The Observational Mode (window to the world)
Best exemplified by the Cinema Verite or Direct Cinema movement which emerged in the late 1950's/early 1960's - it attempted to capture (as accurately as possible) objective realioty with the filmmaker as neutral observer.
- A non-interventionist or fly-on-the-wall style of presentation,
-Unobtrusive camera work, appearing to offer a 'window to the world',
-Relatively long takes connoting that nothing has been 'cut out',
-Zoom lenses and hand-held camera following the action,
-Editing which gives the impression of 'lived' or 'real' time,
-Speech which is overheard and not directed to camera or audience,
-Only diegetic music
The Participatory or Interactive Mode
Unlike the observational mode, the participatory mode welcomes direct engagement between filmmaker and subject(s) - the filmmaker becomes part of the events being recorded. The filmmaker's impact on the events being recorded is acknowledged, indeed, it is often celebrated and the filmmaker becomes a key 'character' in the film itself.
-The acknowledged presence of the camera and crew,
-The film-maker speaking directly to her/his subjects,
-An emphasis on monologues and dialogues,
-Representation of multiple viewpoints, contributing different information,
-Editing which maintains logical continuity,
-No definitive argument, leaving the audience to decide.
The Performative Mode
This mode emphasized the subjective nature of the documentarian as well as acknowledging the subjective reading of the audience - notions of objectivity are replaced by 'evocation and affect'. Whenre the documentary maker 'stars' in his/her own film, is also termed 'self-reflexive'.
-Emphasized the emotional and social impact on the audience.
The Reflexive Mode (awareness of the process)
The reflextive mode acknowledges the constructed nature of documentary and flaunts it - conveying to people that this is not necessarilt 'truth', but a reconstruction of it - 'a' truth, not 'the' truth. The artifice of the documentary is exposed - the audience are made aware of the editing, sound, recording, ETC.
-Acknowledgement of the medium to problematise it,
-Discussion of the problems of making the documentary,
-Making explicit the process of representation,
-Making explicit institutional issues (such as who is funding it)