Touching the Void

2003

Documentary / Adventure

67
IMDb Rating 8.1

Synopsis


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2.03G
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English
23.976 (23976/1000) FPS /
106 min
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809.19M
1280*720
R
English
23.976 /
106 min
P/S 13 / 83

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by The_Void 8

Touching the Void tells the story of Simon and Joe; two mountain climbers whose trip to Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes ended in tragedy. I had never heard of either one of these men or their story before watching this film, but in the mountaineering world, they are the stuff of legend. I don't doubt that I'm not the only one to never have heard of them, so all in all, I think that this is a story that needs to be told. The story itself has all the ingredients of a successful human drama - it's gripping, exciting, realistic, continually intriguing, and overall it makes for a nice film. Carrying on with the recent trend that was kicked off with Bowling for Columbine, Touching the Void is filmed in a documentary style. This is definitely to the film's credit; the documentary style allows the auteur to tell a story and not have to worry about dramatics and so fourth. The documentary style is also detached in nature, so it allows the audience to make up their own mind about the events that they see on screen, and with a story as provocative as this one; that's what you want. The film is told from the men's points of view as well as seeing actors portray what happened on screen, and this allows the story to be effectively shown with an insight into their thoughts as well, which works a treat in my opinion. The story is one of intense courage and decision making in a situation where every decision is a bad one. The major provocative point comes from the decision that Simon makes when he chooses to cut his partner (Joe) off, causing him to fall down a ravine. In my opinion, Simon did the right thing. The only other choice was to not cut him off, and get pulled down himself; so it's Simon and Joe, or just Joe. I don't even think there's a debate. What did get me about Simon's character, however, was his attitude towards his partner's injury. He's just seen him fall down and break his leg, and his first thought is that if he falls off the cliff, he'll be able to go down alone, which would be much easier than hoisting Joe down with him. I don't know about you, but that's not the sort of partner I would want on a high-risk mountaineering trip. Not only that; but he didn't even check on the well being of his friend in the morning after the fall; I realize that his chances of survival are unlikely, but I would expect him to still check because you never know. And then, just to top it off, on his way down the mountain; he's debating with himself whether or not to tell what really happened or just make something up! And just for a final shock; he didn't make a better story up! I found his lack of caring to be rather shocking. The main story of the film, however, is not Simon's but Joe's; which is an absolutely amazing story of human courage. This man was not only extremely frightened as he was in the middle of nowhere on his own with no way to get help, but he also had to toil with a broken leg and extreme dehydration. The agony he must have been in is unimaginable, and yet he somehow managed to drag himself all the way down the mountain to safety. The man deserves a medal. The film allows the audience to stay with him throughout his ordeal; we really feel his pain and it makes the images on screen undoubtedly powerful. Had the film have been filmed in dramatics, without the documentary, it wouldn't have managed the same effect; and that is testament to the good decision to film it as a documentary. Despite the nature of the story, it also manages to be amusing at times, with Joe telling the audiences the thoughts of a doomed man, and a very surreal sequence involving Boney M. This story shows human courage like no other film I've ever seen, and what's more; it's all true and it all feels very real as well - it's almost like you're watching the actual events. Overall, Touching the Void is an incredible cinematic experience. There isn't another film quite like this one and it really does have to be seen to be believed. Highly recommended viewing for all.

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Reviewed by Philby-3 9

There are exceptions, but mountaineering movies fall roughly into two classes; overblown, unrealistic cliffhanging (in more than one sense) dramas ('Eiger Sanction', 'K2', 'Cliffhanger', 'Vertical Limit') and rather trite descriptive documentaries often seen as padding for the 'National Geographic' channel schedules, although Jon Krakaur's 'Into Thin Air' managed to combine the worst of both worlds. Both classes have in common (usually) Gortex gear, superb mountain scenery and splendid cinematography. What distinguishes this survival story is that it has (sorry about this) high drama, an understated style and absolute authenticity. The actual principals, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, and Richard Hawkins the non-climber base camp minder, narrate their story as it is re-enacted, partly at the original site in Peru (though some filming was done in the European Alps), while actors (with very few lines to say) re-enact the saga of the Siula West Face climb. It all hangs together beautifully; and I was rapt from go to whoa. My disbelief was entirely suspended. Even documentaries are stories rather than fact (whatever that is) and this story is superbly told, for which director Kevin Macdonald can take full credit, though perhaps one should also thank Simon Yates and Joe Simpson for telling us their stories. One critic has taken the director to task in not dwelling on the moral issues involved ? the cutting the rope bit. No mountaineering drama is without one of these but here it actually happened. That critic has missed the point ? the approach here is 'be your own judge'. This film manages to appeal both to mountaineers (a small but highly critical audience) and non-mountaineers. As a (semi-retired) and undistinguished member of the former group, I found few nits to pick, though a more extended explanation of the difference between Alpine-style and Expedition climbing would help to show non-mountaineers that it wasn't a suicide attempt (though speaking for myself I wouldn't have tried it with less than four in the party). And as the film was about a climb that went wrong, the joy of climbing, which is not easy to explain to non-mountaineers was rather overshadowed by Joe's suffering as he dragged himself, leg broken, down the mountain. But never have I seen a more graphic illustration of the adage 'never give up'. Lie down to die and you will die. Joe and the Texan doctor on Everest (see 'Into Thin Air') both should have died, yet they survived. In the doctor's case it seems to have been some primeval instinct (he was not a mountaineer). In Joe's case he seems to have treated survival as a challenge and focused his thoughts accordingly ('I thought, in twenty minutes I'll be at the next rock'). I winced every time his broken leg hit something. To sum up this is a great film, which will live long in your memory, climber or non-climber. P.S. Simon was only 20 or so at the time, Joe a more mature 25. Both have kept climbing, though significantly not together.

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Reviewed by Ralph Michael Stein ([email protected]) 9

A recent article on "Touching the Void" focused on the reactions of mountaineers to films about their often deadly avocation. Many commented that virtually no movie dealing with mountain climbing felt real to them. I suspect that Kevin MacDonald's gripping part re-enactment, part-documentary may be the rare exception that will capture the interest of amateur and professional mountaineers. (I haven't climbed since 1966 when I and two fellow Army officers set the record for summiting Seoul, Korea's Namsan from its almost inaccessible east face.) Simon, a very experienced climber, and Joe, a younger devotee, sought to be the first to reach the top of Peru's Siula Grande through a forbidding and unconquered approach. Before heading to a remote location to establish a base camp they picked up Richard, a traveler with no experience or interest in climbing but a hale-fellow-well-met willing to babysit the camp while the two adventurers climbed. Getting to the top of the summit via an often near-sheer face was daunting enough and the duo made it. The trip back was the disaster. As one commented, eighty percent of injuries and deaths occur on the way down. Joe took a fall sustaining a very serious leg injury causing limited mobility, intractable pain and major damage. Simon figured out a way for the two to continue their descent but Joe later went crashing over the side and hung helplessly swinging in the air, his dead weight immobilizing Simon. Arguably both would have perished if this condition continued. In what remains a roiling full-fledged controversy amongst the mountaineering fraternity, Simon believed he could only save his life by cutting the rope from which Joe, with whom he could not communicate, dangled. The rope cut, Simon made his way back to base camp sure that his companion was dead. Simon's descent was perilous but compared to the still living Joe's evolving ordeal it was a walk in the park. Over almost a week, Joe survived on no food, virtually no water and sheer guts and determination to live. His trip down the mountain to within range of the tent where his weak voice was heard by the about to decamp climber and assistant is a truly unique and compelling survivor story, one of the most dramatic ever brought to film. Both the real climbers and Richard are narrators whose story unfolds between re-enactments by non-speaking but truly athletic actors. The make-up crew did wonders here to capture the brutal battering each sustained, especially Joe, during the climb and descent. The photography is magnificent. Joe has always maintained that he too would have cut the rope had his position and Simon's been reversed but his open and repeated acceptance of Simon's desperate act has been rejected by many mountaineers. I was particularly fascinated by this issue since as a law professor I begin my Criminal Law course, as do very many colleagues, with the very issue of necessity as a justification for one person to save his life by sacrificing the lives of others (no mountains but two celebrated cases involving the sea, one English, the other American, provide very similar moral and legal dilemmas to Simon and Joe's excruciating situation). While no legal action ensued from the Peru near tragedy, the same issues are there and remain for viewers to think about and discuss. Both Joe and Simon continue to climb, Joe after six operations to his shattered leg. Their accomplishment in scaling Siula Grande has not to date been duplicated. That must give each extraordinary satisfaction. This film is almost in a class of its own and I suspect it will become a talking point for climbers. For today's audience, attention was rapt and sighs and gasps escaped involuntarily as the climbers, and Joe especially, encountered one near fatal obstacle after the other. 9/10.

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