Monday, February 24, 2014

“Yaks are not natural actors"

                Norgay’s novel and his description of the IMAX filming present ideas about the different mediums of “true retellings” of events, and how the story can subtly change depending on the retelling. Norgay’s journey with the IMAX film crew not only presents the idea of a constructed visual narrative, but also reflects this on the creation of the novel itself.
                On page 70, Norgay describes “This year, he wanted yaks in the shot. By walkie-talkie, David and I coordinated the timing of a yak train…” He slides this into his narrative as if it is nothing, but it’s an important idea in the creation of a documentary. This shot, while minor, was constructed by the film crew because the director wanted the yaks to be dragged across the bridge.  This documentary, which I assume presents itself a “true retelling,” is described here with a shot that is constructed by the maker of the film.  Many descriptions of the team filming emphasize this idea, because they only film after they have finished parts of the trek and have pitched their camp.  They don’t film while actually climbing the mountain, which (I assume) is what is often presented in the documentary. This certainly isn’t bad, and I’m sure it happens with many other documentaries, but I wonder what other sequences of the footage were images that the director wanted, so he manipulated and constructed them in order to include them in his film?

                Novels present a whole different collection of validity issues. Although Norgay did not have to go out of his way to “construct” a scene that he wanted to include in his book because he could just make it up, he was able to write about things that occurred while he wasn't physically present. Norgay spends many pages describing events that happened while he wasn't there, such as his retelling of the disaster on the top of the mountain, which occurred while he was at base camp. While this true of many novels and is not necessarily a bad thing, when novels or films present themselves as a “true” representation it is interesting to think how much of that work is “truth” and how much is a construction of the creator.

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