Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it without a sense of ironic futility.— Errol Morris
The most powerful Errol Morris quotes to get the best of your day
I believe we have two ideas about how movies are made in our heads.
Idealizations. Platonic ideals. One of them is of a movie that is completely uncontrolled, and another is a movie that is completely controlled. The auteur theory vs. cinéma vérité.
If you want to trick someone with a photograph, there are lots of easy ways to do it. You don't need Photoshop. You don't need sophisticated digital photo-manipulation. You don't need a computer. All you need to do is change the caption.
People like nonfiction presented to them in a certain way, so that they don't have to think about whether it's true or not. They like it to have that imprimatur of respectability, of genuineness.
They say seeing is believing, but the opposite is true. Believing is seeing.
If you asked me what makes the world go round, I would say self-deception.
Self-deception allows us to create a consistent narrative for ourselves that we actually believe. I’m not saying that the truth doesn’t matter. It does. But self-deception is how we survive.
I'm really interested in self-deception.
Really interested in how people live in bubble universes. How people can fail to see the seemingly obvious.
Finding truth involves some kind of activity.
As I like to point out, truth isn't handed to you on a platter. It's not something that you get at a cafeteria, where they just put it on your plate. It's a search, a quest, an investigation, a continual process of looking at and looking for evidence, trying to figure out what the evidence means.
The proper route to an understanding of the world is an examination of our errors about it.
Everything is a reenactment. We are reenacting the world in the mind. The world is not inside there. It does not reside in the gray matter of the brain.
The imprimatur of truthfulness does not guarantee truthfulness.
People should know better. But they don't.
I think calling someone a character is a compliment.
What's interesting is that Citizen Kane was meant as an anti-fascist/anti-capitalist melodrama and for Donald Trump it becomes just another kind of misogynistic claim that misses the point.
I've done interviews in one day that went on for fifteen, sixteen hours.
And at a certain point, the control over what they're saying breaks down; it becomes different. It becomes really powerful, and for me, real. It becomes out of control.
I think we get into all kinds of difficulty by saying photographs should be taken in a certain way which guarantees their veracity. I think that's a slippery slope to hell.
Part of the mystery of any given photograph is the fact that it was taken at a certain time and in a certain place and time keeps moving on. A photograph might be a moment in time preserved, but the world continues to change around it.
I probably wouldn't have done [ Fred Leuchter story] if it was just a story about an executioner or a holocaust denier, but the combination of the two elements was irresistible. So yeah, I find it strange that there are so many people out there now.
Forty years ago this country went down a rabbit hole in Vietnam and millions died. I fear we're going down a rabbit hole once again - and if people can stop and think and reflect on some of the ideas and issues in this movie, perhaps I've done some damn good here!
I've been horribly depressed (lately), which, as you know, can be terribly time-consuming. I mean, if you're going to do it right, that is.
It's really hard to know why certain artists become famous and others don't.
The chance that any given sentence is a lie, rather than a truth, I think, is fairly great. An intentional lie, a self-deception, a misconception - there are lots of categories of untruth, not one grab bag. And hotographs can reveal something to us, and they can also conceal things.
I've always loved [Elsa Dorfman] work.
I've loved her and her work is so much an expression of her. One of the reasons to make the film is to expose Elsa, hopefully, to a wider audience.
Right now, we live in bad times in this country, and the fact that there are filmmakers addressing political and social issues is to me a good thing.
The smarter people I know declined to watch the most recent debate [with Donald Trump].
God is greater than anything that man can do or has done.
He is not undone by just a train of powder. "Our God is not out of breath because he has blown one tempest and swallowed a Navy: Our God has not burnt out his eyes because he has looked upon a Train of Powder."
Maybe [killers] is one of my real passions. Why deny it?
People think in narratives - in beginnings, middles and ends.
The danger when you edit something too severely is that it no longer makes sense; worse still, it leaves people with the disquieting impression that something is being hidden.
I've always wondered where explanations end and excuses begin.
Film is lies at twenty-four frames a second.
Interviews, when they are just simply an exercise in hearing what you want to hear, are of no interest. And many, many, if not most interviews have that character. The interviewer who comes in with a list of bullet points they're going to address one after the other. Interviews, properly considered, should be investigative. You should not know what you're going to hear. You should be surprised.
The claim that everybody sees the world differently is not a claim that there's no reality. It's a different kind of claim.
Mike Wallace's interviews may make great television, but they don't produce great evidence.
You can't really trust anybody who doesn't talk a lot, because how would you know what they're thinking?
I used to work as a private detective years and years ago.
And my boss gave me this one very simple piece of advice about trying to figure out who to interview first in any investigation. His recommendation: Always pick the people who were fired. Pick the people who are pissed off.
Truth exists independent of style. It involves all kinds of issues. Properly considered, it's a quest, a pursuit. To say that vérité is more truthful than something that is narrated is just misplaced. Completely wrong. And the fact that people still talk about it as though they're really talking about something... it puzzles me greatly. A moment of reflection about it tells you that it makes no sense!
I've been involved in doing advertising for various elections and I just couldn't see doing anti-Trump advertising in this election. My line has been, "How could you do anything worse that what he does himself?".
I actually wanted to publish [ interview with Donald Trump about Citizen Kane] in the New York Times, but the circumstances under which I did that movie made me vulnerable to a lawsuit and at this point in my career, I don't want to go there. But it's amazing.
You can think of my films as cautionary tales, but you might even think of them as despairing tales, because at least in a cautionary tale, you have this idea that by listening to the story you can assure a better outcome. Whereas I'm not at all convinced that's the case. In fact, if anything, I'm convinced that it's the opposite.
You can ask yourself, if a film makes a claim, is the claim true or false? Having said that, a style of presenting material doesn't guarantee truth. There's this crazy idea that somehow you pick a style, and by virtue of picking the style, you've provided something that is more truthful. It's as if you imagine that changing the font on a sentence you write makes it more truthful.
Nothing is so obvious that it's obvious.
I used to live in New York City, then when my son was two years old we moved to Cambridge Massachusetts and we've been there ever since. My son is now twenty-nine years old, so we've been up there for a while.
Listening to what people were saying wasn't even important.
But it was important to look as if you were listening to what people were saying. Actually, listening to what people are saying, to me, interferes with looking as if you were listening to what people are saying.
There is a documentary element in my films, a very strong documentary element, but by documentary element, I mean an element that's out of control, that's not controlled by me. And that element is the words, the language that people use, what they say in an interview. They're not written, not rehearsed. It's spontaneous, extemporaneous material. People
One of the strengths of my interviews is that I really, honest to God, have no idea what people are going to say.
There are many dramas that I would like to make: dramas based on real stories.
It's approaching things from the other side.
Language can be used to so many diverse ends.
It can be used to clarify and, of course, it can be used to obfuscate, confuse, evade.
There is only one direction. (Down.) There is only one color. (Black.) And there is only one number (Zero.)
The first Polaroid ever took of someone in my family was my son when he was about four years old.
I like to think that every movie emerges from the conversations.
Maybe today I would call Fred Leuchter and there would be two or three other documentary filmmakers interested in his story simply because of the exposure.