Film Techniques In Documentary ‘Touching the Void’

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In a documentary, Touching the Void by Kevin Macdonald, Joe’s breaking point happened on the moraine dam scene where he made use of film techniques. He thought, ‘This is it, this is as far as this game goes. I’m not capable of going any further.’ Kevin Macdonald used film techniques to give us the visual effect of what Joe was feeling.

Kevin Macdonald uses film techniques like an arc shot to give us the idea that Joe is losing his mind. Macdonald used an arc shot to give us a dizziness effect, showing us that Joe’s head might be ‘spinning’ and he started to hallucinate. To support the idea of an arc shot he used a dolly zoom to create a vertiginous and unsteady effect. All this was arranged by a handheld camera to make the scenes, shots and angles shakier and unsteady. A quote to show that Joe’s mind started to drift off is ‘I sort of knew I was dead then. That moment, when no one answered the call, it was… I lost something. I lost me.’ Joe thinks that his life might be over which makes him want to give up. He shouldn’t give up, he made it that far, he should try to keep moving forward even though all his been through. Using techniques like arc shot, dolly zoom and handheld camera are great ways to give a hallucinating effect.

Macdonald utilises music as well as cutaways and inserts to give us the idea of Joe being bewildered with other irregular thoughts. Cutaways show that Joe’s mind keeps thinking of stray thoughts, which he has no control over. Showing he was not aware of his surroundings. Macdonald applied music to the scene to support this concept by using a song by Boney M, Brown girl in the ring, that Joe honestly didn’t like. This song was stuck in his head for hours and hours and he couldn’t get out. Proving he had no control over it. A quote supporting that was ‘I did have one time, when I got a song going through my head. And it was by a band called Boney M. And I don’t really like Boney M’s music.’ With the use of music, cutaways, and inserts Macdonald conveys the thought of distraction in Joe’s mind and gives us the visual effect.

Voice overs play a significant roll in Kevin Macdonald’s documentary. Not only does it help us hear the authentic story told by Joe and Simon, but we get to see and hear their pure emotions. Voice overs are there to make the documentary more realistic to us. The emotions that Joe is feeling and showing cannot be simulated by someone else. It wouldn’t have the same outcome. “I spend a long time, sat there, crying, not sure what to do. I thought about getting in my sleeping bag. For some reason, it just seemed a bit of a pathetic way to end things, just in a sleeping bag.” As Joe had pure emotions when telling us the moment he broke down and had no hope. The documentary would not have been the same if Kevin Macdonald did not have Joe doing voice-overs and telling us how he felt at those moments.

Kevin Macdonald used a remarkable effect of timelapse. Macdonald used this to show us that Joe lost track of time. Joe said at one point, “I don’t know entirely what happened for the rest of that night. I stopped looking at the watch, and everything just started to go apart.” Joe has entirely lost it by now. Time was not important to Joe at this point and he just kept drifting off. Timelapse was a small but powerful technique used by Kevin Macdonald. It performed a small role but made a big difference in the portrayal of the film.


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