What is Cinema Verite? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica it is a French film movement of the 1960s that provided a naturalistic approach to film making.
This was achieved in a completely opposite way to traditional film direction. Instead of following the usual techniques of shooting sound and action together to drive the story, the cinema vérité movement first recorded real conversations and interviews, and then worked around this for shooting the film, using this reportage to determine the direction of the movie.
The movie scenes in cinema vérité are often shot to convey a gritty naturalistic effect rather than the usual high quality seamless filming carried out by the major studios.
Much of the structure of the film making process is determined in the cutting room where real life conversations and action are spliced together to create an effect that is completely naturalistic and true to life.
What is Cinema Verite today? Is this process still used in film making?
Cinema Verite was criticised at the time for veering into reportage rather than artistic impression but today movies are still made in this way. Back in the 1960s, American directors were experimenting with this medium and movies such as Primary (1960) directed by Ricky Leacock and Salesman (1969) directed by the Maysels bros have been influential in the movement.
Cinema Verite creates an impression of reality and truthful action. So using hand held cameras, to provide the impression of real life action, combined with natural dialogue that appears to be unscripted can be a very powerful movie method.
In the recent decades, many aspects of cinema vérité have crept into mainstream movie making and TV where it can have a very powerful effect.
What is cinema vérité used for in drama?
In recent decades, many movies capture the spirit of cinema vérité to dramatic effect in fiction films. Movies such as the Blair Witch Project and Saving Private Ryan are well known for the stunning effects that seem far more real than usual movies. In movie making, sometimes a real life wobbly camera and indistinct sound quality can heighten the dramatic effect and create something that just seems so real it is breath taking.
Cinema vérité methods are also used to comic effect in TV sitcoms, like the Office which are portrayed as documentary and in spoof mockumentary movies such as This is Spinal Tap (1984). More modern examples include Parks and Recreation and Modern Family where the actors speak directly to the camera as if in an interview in a documentary.