What is it about us that makes us susceptible to conspiracy theories? Is it cultural? A suspicion of authority that causes us to search for proof that they’re not to be fully trusted. Or is it biological? An innate need to find patterns and connections in things.
The Conspiracy doesn’t answer these questions, but it does show us how compelling conspiracy theories can be, and how easy it is to get caught up in that world.
Documentary filmmakers Aaron and Jim are making a movie about Terrance, a local conspiracy theorist. Terrance never reveals which conspiracy he’s researching, but whatever it is, it’s big. Aaron and Jim do their best to maintain an appropriate objectivity with regards to their subject, but after he vanishes and his apartment is cleared out, Aaron is compelled to finish Terrance’s work.
The Conspiracy is a fictional narrative presented as a documentary film. By stripping away the fictional filter of a traditional film, the mocumentary aesthetic makes the story that much more believable. The movie does its best to balance Aaron’s growing obsession with Jim’s skepticism. But as Aaron uncovers more and more evidence to support his theory, Jim too starts to believe. And so does the audience.
The film uses typical documentary techniques to tell its story: interviews, talking heads, and location work. Pushing the boundaries of what mocumentary film can do is a first-person POV sequence involving two cameras. Aaron has long since become the subject of the film, but in this sequence both he and Jim act as subjective filters, and the audience shares in their two different experiences.
In any conspiracy text, the question of whether the narrator can be trusted must be addressed. The Conspiracy carefully builds its case, drawing you in, never suggesting that what you’re watching isn’t legit. And when the film ends, you’ll be sure of some things, and less sure of others.