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False document

false - document - fiction - truth


A false document is a form of verisimilitude that attempts to create in the reader (viewer, audience, etc) a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief. That is, it wants to fool the audience briefly into thinking that what is being presented is actually a fact. This is not to be confused with a mockumentary, an admittedly fictional film done in the manner of a documentary.

In practice, the device takes a very simple form. The work of art (be it a text, a moving image, a comic book or whatever) usually is composed of or includes some piece of forgery. The false document effect can be achieved in many ways including faked police reports, newspaper articles, bibliographical references and documentary footage. The effect can be extended outside of the confines of the text by way of supplementary material such as badges, ID cards, diaries, letters or other objects.

The moral and legal implications of false document art are, by necessity, complex and perhaps insoluble. The difference between a great artistic achievement and a stunning forgery is slim. Sometimes the false document technique can be the subject of a work instead of its technique, though these two approaches are not mutually exclusive as many texts which engage falseness do so both on the literal and the thematic level. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_document [Nov 2005]

In horror, mystery, detective and fantastic fiction

Blurring the line of reality and fiction is an important component of horror, mystery, detective and fantasy narratives because they wish to engender in the reader a sense of wonder, and of danger, both of which need to feel more present than a typical narrative form would allow. For this reason, false documentary techniques have been in use for at least as long as these literary genres have been around. Frankenstein draws heavily on a forged document feel, as does Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and many of the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire is a particularly elaborate variation. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_document [Jan 2006]

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