“The Thin Blue Line”
While preparing a documentary about Dr. James Grigson, Errol Morris unearths the story of Randall Adams and David Harris. One fateful day, Adams’ car runs out of gas on the side of the road in Dallas, Texas. That same day, after running away from home, stealing a car, and his father’s gun, Harris drove his car through Dallas. Then he comes across Adams walking to get gas for his car. Harris helps Adams and they spend the rest of the day together. That night, Officer Robert Wood was murdered on Inwood Road. Adams is tried and convicted of the murder, and sentenced to death. After learning of this Morris changed the focus of his documentary and created The Thin Blue Line. Through his unconventional narrative, Errol Morris guides the viewer through many versions of the night in question. He uses juxtaposition of scenes, non-conventional reenactments, archival footage and other ways to tell the story of the murder of Officer Wood and the defense and conviction of Adams.
Morris’ use of reenactment is unconventional as he doesn’t show the faces of the actors and shows multiple interpretations of scenes. As Adams recalls his interrogation by Gus Rose, Morris interprets the scene with a reenactment. While Adams is talking about Rose’s style of interrogation, the Morris displays “Rose’s” shoes as he walks into the room, tossing a gun on the table. Adams remembers being told at gunpoint to sign a confession and his refusal to do so, and Morris accentuates the point with a scene of a revolver being pointed directly at the camera. This leads the audience to understand the unfair treatment that Adams is feeling. Morris forces the audience to consider what kind of “truth” the Dallas Police Department is looking for when one of their detectives is willing to use the threat of death in order to get a confession. Morris uses scenes like this to create sympathy for Adams and distaste for the way the accused is treated.
As three new speakers come to...
Cited: Sherwin, Richard. “The Postmodern Challenge: A Case Study.” When Law Goes Pop:
The Vanishing Line Between Law and Popular Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
The Thin Blue Line. Dir. Errol Morris. Cassette. HBO Video, 1988.
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