In 1985 two friends, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, set out to climb Siula Grande in Peru via the West Face, a hitherto unaccomplished feat by any climber. After a tough ascent they succeed but on the descent they run into significant problems. Soon they are both in dire danger and the chances of surviving are slim.Written by
At the end of the movie, there's a written line claiming that Simon faced "strong criticism" from the climbing community after his return to England. This claim has been repeated in several press statements and reviews, but it's not correct. What really happened is that, one month after his return in Europe, Simon went climbing in the Alps, unaware that the Daily Mail newspaper had published a wildly incorrect version of the Siula story, implying that Simon had tried to kill Joe. This was of course absurd, and the British climbing community dismissed it immediately as nonsense. However, back home Simon discovered that a small group of senior members of the Mount Everest Foundation (the body that manages founding for climbing expeditions in the Greater Ranges) had misjudged the story and now wanted Simon excluded in the future from the MEF funds - a move that could basically kill Simon's climbing career. At this point however, Joe Simpson had a correct version of the Siula story published in a respected climbing magazine, and the whole issue was cleared. However, in the DVD commentary, Joe Simpson himself clearly says that Simon came under much criticism after returning home, and that he wrote Touching the Void to defend Simon. See more »
Commenting his descent deeper into the break, Joe says, "I didn't put a knot into the end of the rope. If there was nothing down there, I would fall, and it would be quick." Two minutes before (approx. at 54:30) he is throwing the end of the rope into that break, and as it falls, we see clearly that the knot is properly tied at the end. Just as safety rules prescribe. See more »
During the first part of the closing credits (before the crawl), the credits are accompanied by black-and-white pictures showing the three men's journey back into civilization; the final picture is of Joe in the hospital. See more »
Incredible story of endurance that should be seen on the big screen
'To be seen on a big screen!!'
I hated that line. I never thought it made much sense. Sure, when everyone had 13-inch television sets and a mono-VCR, I could understand how the movie going experience would be more enhanced at the local multi-plex. But in today's world of large screen, letterboxed television sets with surround sound sub-woofered DVD players, could I not enjoy any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at home just the same as forking over $13 sans popcorn and parking to sit beside a bunch of strangers in the dark that will undoubtedly chat non-stop behind me and ignore my discomforting shhh's? (whew, deep breath!)
'To be seen on a big screen!!' You won't ever get me uttering those seven dirty words to any friend of family.
But a funny thing happened on my way to review heaven, and that funny thing included the newly DVD released true story of two mountain climbers in peril in film Touching the Void.
Based on the true story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, Touching the Void takes us on an adventure of endurance and the struggle for survival of two young British climbers in the 1980's that attempt to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in Peru. Their hopeful two-day venture is met with catastrophe when Joe accidentally slips and gruesomely breaks his leg and decisions by both men are made that will ultimately seal their fate.
Sound exciting? You have no idea.
Directed in a documentary style using the real Joe Simpson and Simon Yates as narrators to actors recreating their ordeal, Touching the Void follows the journey of one man trying to save another from inevitable death only to eventually cut him loose when reality supplants hope.
Now separated, Simon deals with his demons of leaving a friend to die while the very much alive in spirit, Joe, struggles for days on end with a broken leg to crawl and climb over treacherous terrain to reunite with hopefully still-in-tact base camp.
As the film is narrated by two of the three participants in the story, is comes as no surprise that Joe survived his weeklong struggle. However, knowing the outcome in no way counters the impact of the ordeal. When Joe starts hallucinating due to the lack of water or has to take one hop at a time over a rocky landscape that leaves him with abrasions and pain that you would almost feel through the screen, you are still met with an edge of your seat tension, rooting for the will of a man to take each day in 20 minute segments of accomplishments in movement.
What makes Touching the Void so unique and different from other documentaries is the truthfulness of the two leads. They hold back nothing in an attempt not to sugarcoat the horror. Simon talks about thinking about the stories and lies he might tell in order to cover up what was a burdening decision to leave a friend behind. And Joe talks about yelling at Simon in anger and being surprised at how Simon developed a plan to take the two of them down the mountain when an injury of this sort was almost certain death.
But what really made this film stand out in my memory are the landscape shots of the mountain. Filmed both in Peru and Europe, the mountain's icy crevices and snow-banked cliffs were beautifully photographed and captured by director Kevin MacDonald. When Joe falls into a crevice that would be undeniable death for even a seasoned climber, we are left with a sense of claustrophobia and loneliness that is hard for even the most seasoned of directors to capture.
The DVD comes with extras that include a short of Joe and Simon reuniting 17 years later to go back to the mountain to relive the experience for the film crew, that is just as honest as the feature presentation. Joe talks of having no feeling whatsoever towards the attempt and wonders why he has agreed to what will be a disappointing emotional response for the director. And when Simon talks about how he and Joe have not remained close after adventure, we are reminded that these are real people with real feelings that survived something that might even have had Job cry 'uncle'.
So, in a year where documentaries have begun to outperform some mainstream Hollywood films, you can add Touching the Void to the list. Just make sure you see it on a big screen.
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