A veteran of the Sinai Field Mission finds this a lifeless chronicle
Frederick Wiseman filmed this documentary shortly before I arrived at the Sinai Field Mission for an assignment as a Liaison Officer between the Egyptian and Israeli armies, so for me it's surreal. The settings, even the people, are totally familiar, yet I am absent, and the filmmaker does not share my point of view on what the place was all about. Watching the film, I feel like one of the characters of "Roshomon" watching rushes of the accounts of the other characters, wondering how they could have seen the same things so differently.
Wiseman's method was to film as unobtrusively as possible. He wanted to be like an anthropologist making films disturbing his subjects as little as possible. Wiseman ignores the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which teaches that just by investigating a subject, the investigator participates in the subject's experience, and changes the results in discernible ways.
Wiseman's film is a failure. In chronicling the exterior workings of the place, he misses any spark of interiority. The Sinai Field Mission had an abnormally rich array of characters. Each had their own take on the place, their own stories to tell. Wiseman misses it all. Someone who dissects frogs will never hear them croak.
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