I just saw Touching the Void, a 2003 documentary by director Kevin Macdonald, which recounts the horrific events that happened to Joe Simpson and Simon Yates in the Peruvian Andes in 1985, when they set out to climb Siula Grande, a 20,000 foot mountain that had never been successfully climbed before.
Let me just say that it is a rare thing for me to be completely and totally engrossed in a film. I remember feeling that way when I watched The Thin Blue Line by Errol Morris. I can say without a doubt that Touching the Void, next to The Thin Blue Line, is the 2nd best documentary I’ve ever seen. Oddly enough, they both involve on-camera interviews with the real life subjects, interwoven with (extremely well done) recreations of the events utilizing actors. So in that way they both combine certain aspects of fiction filmmaking with documentary. But they both do it in such a skillful, and artistic way, that they pull you even more into the true story that these real life people are describing.
In a lot of ways, Touching the Void is even more intense than The Thin Blue Line. But each story is intense in a different way. In one, it’s man vs. a corrupt system, in the other, it’s man vs. nature. I guess the most gripping stories always ones where people’s lives are at stake. It’s human nature. We all want to live, and when we see others just barely escaping death, it speaks to our survival instinct. When that near-death experience is a true story, rather than a fictional one, it makes it all the more compelling.
By the way, back in 2000 I went to the theaters to see Vertical Limit, which if I hadn’t been forced by my wife to watch Twilight, would have topped the list of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. (I know, it’s so cliche to bag on Twilight, but it’s true. Kinda like AOL.) It just reminds me what a joke the majority of Hollywood movies and especially blockbusters are, and how they suck the realism, and the real human drama out of stories until there’s nothing left but 2 hours of mind-numbing cheesiness.
So forget about Thor. Forget about TF3, and definitely, for goodness sake, forget about Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (What could possibly be stranger than Pirates of the Caribbean 3?) If you only watch one movie this year, watch The Thin Blue Line. If you watch two, watch The Thin Blue Line and Touching the Void. You won’t regret it.