Documentarian Frederick Wiseman takes his camera into the small town of Monrovia, Indiana, with his fly-on-the-wall style to examine life in this example of American heartland. As of 2017 the population in Monrovia was 1063. Wiseman gives us a revealing look of what it is like to live there and what the people are like. The meticulously observant film was showcased at the 2018 New York Film Festival and is now in commercial release.
Wiseman focuses on conversations, not interviews, which lets his subjects talk among themselves. We see city council arguments about how to expand building without ruining the town. We get a look at students. In one segment we see the surgical clipping of a dog’s tail, depicted as serious an episode in Monrovia as a heart operation might be.
There is emphasis on farming, as well as idle chats between residents. One observation I came away with was how fat so many people are. We see an example of an overweight population typical of what we read in the country’s obesity statistics.
There is observation involving death, and there is one especially long—too long in my opinion—of a cemetery service and burial. But it does focus on family loss and the personal meaning of death.
By the time Wiseman has finished, and the film clocks in at 143 minutes, you get an in-depth tour of this community, and you can see why Indiana is such a conservative state and Donald Trump country.
Add “Monrovia, Indiana,” to the list of the many Wiseman films, such as "Titicut Follies" and "Hospital," that fascinatingly chronicle various aspects of American life. He is an invaluable documentarian to be lauded for his choice of subjects and for his dedication to digging into the fabric of America and shedding light on how people live and how they think. A Zipporah Films release. Reviewed October 26, 2018.