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Watching the World$
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Thomas Austin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719076893

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719076893.001.0001

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‘Suspense, fright, emotion, happy ending’: documentary form and audience response to Touching the Void

‘Suspense, fright, emotion, happy ending’: documentary form and audience response to Touching the Void

Chapter:
(p.60) 3 ‘Suspense, fright, emotion, happy ending’: documentary form and audience response to Touching the Void
Source:
Watching the World
Author(s):

Thomas Austin

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719076893.003.0014

This chapter uses research among audiences for Touching the Void, the highest grossing British documentary in history, adapted from a best-selling climbing memoir. It examines the film's form, and interrogates a mode of engagement that treated the film as an inspirational story of suffering and survival. Revelations are made on how viewers responded to aesthetic aspects such as Touching the Void's use of dramatic reconstructions alongside ‘talking heads’-style interviews with the climbers involved in the original event. Elements of melodrama exist in Touching the Void, and its story of disaster and survival against the odds carried huge emotional clout for some commentators and audiences. A central plank of the documentary's appeal is its presentation of opportunities to find out about, and somehow connect with, other people ‘out there’ in the world. One way in which this connection can occur is via empathetic engagement with another's situation.

Keywords:   Touching the Void, British documentary, mode of engagement, dramatic reconstructions, talking heads

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