In the movie-making industry, there are a number of powerful works which deserve viewers’ attention and recognition. In spite of the fact that the vast majority of modern people are fond of exiting 3D ideas, the importance of documentary movies is regarded to be noticeable as well. With the help of documentaries, people get an opportunity to learn more about the events which happen around, the ways of people communicate, and strategies they prefer to rely on. “Documentary film is a form of reporting about the world” (Rollyson 2004, 1).
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The list of powerful documentary movies is large indeed, and it is not always easy to pick out the most successful movies for the analysis. In this paper, the attention to two documentary films will be paid: Bigger, Stronger, Faster by Christopher Bell and Touching the Void by Kevin MacDonald.
Though these two works touch upon different aspects of life, Bell discusses the idea of using steroids in everyday life as an outcome of imitation of Schwarzenegger or Stallone, and MacDonald addresses the idea of alpinism as a powerful method to check people’s trust to each other. By means of such documentary techniques likes interviews, exposition, voice-over, or reconstructions, the directors evaluate the conditions under which people have to live, the decisions which people have to make, and actions which need to be taken to save lives.
In Bigger, Stronger, Faster and Touching the Void, the main idea of messages is connected to the way of how people prefer to live and make crucial decisions; these movies aim not only at teaching the viewer but also at explaining the reasons of why the discussed themes are worth recognition and attention.
Documentaries as an open door to factual effects
The peculiar feature of a documentary movie is its purpose. “It is intended to achieve something in addition to entertaining audiences and making money” (Ellis and McLane 2005, 4).
The production of a documentary movie requires much time and specific efforts from different people: a director has to underline as many perspectives to discuss an issue as possible: a producer has to develop proper relations with different people to gain better results in the movie; the actors, as a rule, they are real people with real names and histories, should consider their roles as the ones based on real-life events, so that their emotions and feelings have to correspond to the already established tempo of life.
The works created by Christopher Bell and Kevin MacDonald are the successful examples of documentaries where people get a chance to see the obsession of a man to gain something that is usually unnecessary or even harmful and to be punished for inability to control personal demands and wishes.
Reviews of the movies about human weaknesses
“All of you have lied! All of you have said something wrong, all of you have dirt. All of you. When your closet’s clean, then come clean somebody else’s. But clean yours first” (Bell 2008). This is one of the most memorable quotes in the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster. It is all about human nature and people’s decision to use steroids to improve their lives. This movie discusses human weaknesses before an idea to become better and stronger.
People do not want to focus on some morals, ethical aspects of their behaviour, and true attitudes to their roles and functions. In the movie, the authors raise a number of questions concerning why people want to use steroids and how their fail to use consistent steps. It is hard to define true intentions of people. “Everybody tries to be bigger, faster, stronger and what you lose in trying to accomplish that is natural ability” (Wexell 2004, 72).
As for the second movie, Touching the Void is more about human weakness to extreme sports and situations when it is possible to check the worth of human life. Capabilities of human body and human mind are hard to evaluate, this is why it is necessary to cast all possible distractions away and concentrate on the things which really matter: life and death.
It is difficult to make a decision when it is about human life, however, it is necessary to do something in order to achieve the results and to meet personal demands. In the movie, Simon Yates admits that “rather than just sit here, feeling sorry for myself or whatever, I’ll get on with it and I’ll die on the way down” (MacDonald 2003).
Different outcomes of the same documentary techniques in the movies
Nowadays, the directors of documentaries prefer to use different techniques within one movie in order to underline the most significant moments and make the viewer focus his/her attention on a particular detail. One of the significant differences between the movies Touching the Void and Bigger, Stronger, Faster is that the director of the former makes use of both, dramatic aspects and documentary techniques.
In Touching the Void, much attention is paid to reconstructions. The vast majority of scenes in the movie are based on real events which happen to Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, the two men who made a decision to climb the Peruvian Andes in the shortest period of time.
The director makes an attempt to combine the movie with some pieces of interviews with real Joe and Simon who are “filmed as footage for inclusion in the edited documentary” (Friedmann 2006, 143). With the help of this documentary technique, the movie is regarded as an educative source of information, full of emotions, pain, and respect.
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Interviews with the main characters introduce a true picture of the events which happen with people climbing the dangerous mountain. On the one hand, the movie characters perform their roles on a high level: they demonstrate appropriate emotions and desire at the beginning of the movie. They have a hope; they have a plan; and they trust each other. They cannot guess what is waiting for them. And real interviews serve as a kind of warning sign for the viewer.
In comparison to the movie by MacDonald, the techniques used by Bell in his movie have the other contributions and effects. Interviews with people aim not at demonstrating their emotions and attitude to the issue. These interviews perform the function of informative sources.
They do not cause some emotions from the viewer; they just prove the truth that people support an idea of steroids’ usage and they believe the chosen methods have appropriate outcomes. To underline the idea of information gathering, the director also makes use of another technique that is voiceover narration when it is possible to hear what a character speak but cannot see him (Yahnke 2009).
Another powerful technique, the exposition, is used in both movies as well. However, the effects it may have on the viewer seem to be rather different. The essence of the exposition in documentaries is to introduce the most important aspects of a movie and create the first impression on the viewer. In case with Bigger, Stronger, Faster, the voice behind the camera demonstrate his passion to big men, their unbelievable power, their impact on human life and the American culture.
Loud and hard background music, attention to the political perspective, and quotations from the famous events and movies make the viewer realize that this documentary is about the issue is interesting for many people. The purpose of this documentary technique is perfectly achieved by the director: he attracts attention and proves the urgency of the topic discussed.
In Touching the Void, the exposition is introduced in the calmer tone: a young man informs the audience about the story discussed in the movie. “It was fun”, he admits (MacDonald 2003).
The exposition of this movie helps to prepare the viewer for a story that is full of emotions, true human emotions which are based on person’s desire to climb the world. However, as one wrong action takes place, fun disappears and something terrible begins. The events which happen in the story change the lives of two good friends which have to face a number of challenges and to survive.
Themes and messages of the movies
The importance of documentary techniques in Bigger, Stronger, Faster and Touching the Void is evident indeed. Someone may think that it is not easy to create a movie about real life and use real people as the main actors. However, the use of techniques makes each movie special and worthwhile.
With the help of interviews and clear exposition, MacDonald proves that his movie is a real collection of emotions and feelings which are inherent to everyday life. Conquests which people try to demonstrate may lead to unpredictable outcomes and influence the rest of the life considerably.
The themes in the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster are disclosed by the same techniques, however, the message of the movie varies deeply. People have the right to choose. But still, their choices are not always correct; unfortunately, they cannot understand why something goes wrong.
The use of steroids is one of the most controversial topics nowadays, and people are free to use as many supportive arguments as well as opposing ideas. It is necessary to understand how harmful steroids can be for human health, and the movie helps to comprehend the outcomes of drugs’ use. There is no concrete answer whether it is wrong or right; there is a free choice for people to make and rely on personal abilities, demands, and interests.
The role of documentary movies is significant for our society. Under the masks of numerous tricks, computer technologies, and improved shots, it is hard to define a true nature of the film message. Documentaries like Bigger, Stronger, Faster and Touching the Void prove that it is possible to create amazing movies and not to rely on computer techniques.
The variety of documentary techniques helps to introduce magnificent educative stories: expositions prove that the chosen movie is worth attention; interviews, both direct and indirect, explain that everything that is described in the movie happens in real; footage and reconstructions help to see how the event from the past happened and to understand why the event influence the life.
There are no clear instructions on how documentaries should be evaluated by the viewer. However, there is one truth that documentaries help to see and analyze the same life, conditions, and events from another perspective, deeper and more coherent.
Bell, Christopher. Bigger, Stronger, Faster. Directed by Christopher Bell. Columbus: BSF Film, 2008.
Ellis, Jack and McLane, Betsy. 2005. A New History of Documentary Film. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.
Friedmann, Anthony. 2006. Writing for Visual Media. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.
Rollyson, Carl. 2004. Documentary Film: A Primer. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.
Touching the Void. Movie. Directed by Kevin MacDonald. London: Darlow Smithson Productions, 2003.
Wexell, Jim. 2004. Tales from Behind the Steel Curtain. Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing LLC.
Yahnke, Robert. 2009. A Primer of Documentary Film Techniques. Resources for Teaching Film, September. Web.