Magazine article Screen International

'The Thin Blue Line' (1988) - Screen's 40 at 40

Magazine article Screen International

'The Thin Blue Line' (1988) - Screen's 40 at 40

Article excerpt

Director: Errol Morris (US)

Few directors are foolish enough to believe their work has changed the world. In the case of Errol Morris, however, it happens to be true.

Billed as "the first movie mystery to actually solve a murder", Morris's non-fiction feature The Thin Blue Line explored the case of Randall Dale Adams, a drifter who was convicted for the murder of a Dallas policeman in 1976.

Morris approached his subject with a forensic eye, recording contradictory, Rashomon-like testimony from individuals who believed wholeheartedly in the truth of their statements.

He defied the purists of the documentary world by staging dramatic reconstructions and giving the project a film noir sensibility.

The haunting, hypnotic score by Philip Glass also makes a significant contribution to a film that remains as compelling as any narrative drama.

It effectively breaks down the orthodoxies of documentary film-making, suggesting that truth is sometimes better served by incorporating elements of fiction; or, at least, informed speculation. It proved a film could be an investigation in which its makers are obliged to go where the story takes them, and the viewers are required to develop a mind of their own.

Indeed, no viewer of The Thin Blue Line can be leftin any doubt that Adams was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, and that the justice system itself was deeply flawed.

Within a year of its release, Adams was a free man; without Morris, there is every possibility he might have continued to languish in prison, protesting his innocence to deaf ears. …

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