Sometimes I get really disappointed with watching an adventure documentary. The build up is great. Short teasers on youtube of incredible scenes, but the film itself doesn’t seems to live up to the hype. As a result I see a lot of films that use crutches to make them interesting like excessive use of POV cameras and endless music montages. As a result adventure films often end up feeling like music videos. The very best adventure documentaries to my mind do not rely on flashy editing and remember that the story and characters in the film are what is important.
The best adventure documentaries for me are the ones which go deeper than the surface of the actual feat of the expedition. They probe the human condition and drive which pushes people to put themselves into these positions. This is what I aspire to and truthfully where I fail most dismally.
Touching the Void fits into the sort of re-enactment style of documentary which can fall incredibly flat if the narrative is weak. As with most of what they touch the BBC turn it into gold. What I loved about this film was that it was a feature. It held the suspense and scratched at uncomfortable truths about what it is that makes us human.
I sometimes forget that adventure documentary falls into the documentary genre as a whole. To work out what will make an adventure documentary work we need to learn how narrative and story arcs shape a film. How do we interpret what we are shooting?Who better to hear from than Scorsese.
The undisputed master of documentary storytelling is Werner Hezog. I can’t wait to see his most recent film:
And so everything doesn’t get too heavy here is one of my favourite Monty Python sketches: