Challenging Impossibility Review

A few years ago, I attended Sri Chinmoy’s weightlifting celebration of 2004. It was a remarkable night of lifting prowess, but as these things tend to do, it had mostly faded from my memory. Also as someone with no background in weightlifting, it was hard to find any reference point for judging the weightlifting of Sri Chinmoy.

The film, Challenging Impossibility, helps put Sri Chinmoy’s lifting in perspective through fascinating insights through speaking to some of the top bodybuilders and weightlifters.

It seems hard to know what to expect from a film which is an unusual blend of weightlifting and Spiritual Teacher. As one newscaster mentioned in the film, what happens when you mix the Incredible Hulk and the Dalai Lama?

On its own the lifting feats of Sri Chinmoy are quite extraordinary, especially when you consider his age and relatively frail physical frame. However, images of a 73 year old Spiritual Teacher lifting a smart car above his shoulders, leave many questions unanswered- not least, how? and why?

The success of the film is that it allows you to understand the how and why without any direct explanation or lecture. There is a variety of perspectives from top body builders to fitness experts and those who were just lifted by Sri Chinmoy. It is a curious blend of topics and people, but this adds to its fascination. It is very revealing to gain a glimpse into why these weightlifters were moved by these unique lifting feats. The film is definitely stronger from having the feedback of some great athletes, even in their own right they make interesting viewing. But, in the case of Sri Chinmoy’s lifting, there is a feeling they were confronted with something very new and unexpected. To each it meant something different, and seeing how people react is part of the charm.

The film is much more than weightlifting; in fact you get the impression weightlifting was just a vehicle to express certain ideas and concepts. Sri Chinmoy doesn’t look like a body body builder, and he definitely doesn’t talk like your average weightlifter either. In the short extracts of Sri Chinmoy speaking, you get an unmistakable feeling of humility which is unexpected given the dramatic nature of the achievements. You could have heard more from Sri Chinmoy, but perhaps that is part of the philosophy – too many words are unnecessary.

You can’t help but be moved by the film, it is a rare combination of energy and positivity which will leave you inspired, at least in some way. It also leaves as many questions as it answers. What are we really capable of? Is our view of old age outdated? What should our motivation be for doing things?

You could have listened to Sri Chinmoy and those interviewed for longer. But, by being so concise and focused, it packs as much as possible into 30 minutes without making the mistake of trying too hard. Within the film, there is definitely space to think and mull over the issues, and this is part of its appeal. It is a film which engages the viewer in the experience.

It is so tight and well produced it is hard to find any meaningful criticism, perhaps the background music is a little too loud in some parts, but to look for insignificant faults is to miss the point of the film. Just go with an open mind and enjoy this unusual visual and audio production. If nothing else it will be very thought provoking. For myself I found it both enjoyable and surprisingly moving. The only real point worth making is that it could have gone on for longer.