I had heard about Ross McElwee’s film Sherman’s March for quite a while, and figured I had better finally devote the 2 hours and 27 minutes needed to watch this documentary. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
Ross McElwee’s introspective style of storytelling is interesting to me, because while he is essentially just telling stories from his own life, he manages to broaden the ideas and themes to a wide and relatable state. At times the story line did move a bit slow, but it almost seemed intentional. If he had forced the doc to be fast paced with quick cuts and sudden camera movements, he would have sabotaged the feel of the slow, simple Southern life McElwee was able to achieve through long shots and fairly slow camera movements.
McElwee puts himself in the place of “everyman” in the universal quest of love and loss. The characterization of the women he comes in contact with was intriguing, because seeing the women directly compared one another brought out each of their respective eccentricities. It may have been unfair for McElwee to put the various women on the screen for the audience to judge based on their minimal relative time with Ross. At the same time, however, I think he did as accurate job as he could to portray these women. In the end they may have come off as recognizable characters such as the hopeful actress, the Mormon, or the environmentalist hippie, but beyond these titles McElwee was able to show more of their character by sharing their intimate conversations, and his own thoughts on who they were and what they meant to him.
In the end, I came to care about the filmmaker and the subjects. I wondered what became of the actress or if Ross ever was able to find the right woman. This was achieved through McElwee’s willingness to share himself. This is a very critical idea, because I believe if you want to connect with your audience or subject on a deeper level, you have to be willing to put yourself on display, as well.