on 16 July 2004
OK-if you think Vertical Limit or Cliffhanger [even, for the older of us, The Eiger Sanction] are great mountaineering movies, you may not get a lot out of this film.
Anyone else [the vast majority of us, surely] will appreciate what I believe to be one of the best tales of human endurance ever shown on film. The "plot" is well enough known-two young climbers have an epic on an Andean peak, one is seriously injured and out of touch with his partner who faces the agonising decision of cutting the rope which connects them. Given that both climbers appear in to-camera narrative shots, one is never in any doubt that Joe Simpson is going to survive, but this absolutely does not detract from the tension, the edge-of-the-seat involvement in the movie.
As well as the documentary style narrative, there are plenty of climbing scenes, some filmed with Simpson and Yates and some with climbing "doubles". The psychological courage of Joe Simpson in re-enacting his agonising crawl down the moraine to a base camp he didn't even know still existed is awe inspiring.
This isn't an adventure movie and it isn't a documentary. It falls into an almost unique category in which the immensity of human endurance and courage is depicted, analysed and celebrated. It should appeal to anyone with a shred of empathy and imagination.
There are several extra features on the DVD. Might I suggest that you don't watch one called "Return to Suilla Grande" for a day or two after seeing the main film? I think you'll see why when you do it!
On a personal note, I was an active mountaineer in the 80's and, like many others, engaged in fervent pub conversations on the cutting-the-rope controversy. Having watched this film, I'm ashamed that had the temerity to venture an opinion.
on 1 November 2014
I thought this was going to be a dramatised film, but it is more of a drama/documentary with Joe Simpson and Simon Yates appearing and talking about their experience. It doesn't cover all events in detail, this would be impossible unless it was produced into a 2 part film. I recommend the film but you MUST MUST read the book, it's the most gripping book I have ever read.
on 20 March 2004
Despite the fact that 'Touching the Void' was originally written as a low budget documentary about Joe Simpson's legendary escape from falling (well, being accidentally lowered) into a gargantuan crevasse with a broken leg suffered while descending the only successful ascent of Suile grande, 'Touching the Void' is an intensely exciting thriller, and all the better for the fact that it is all real. Although you know from the start that Joe survives, indeed even his partner Simon didn't think during his descent that HE would survive, and he was healthy and hadn't fallen into a crevasse, as with the best stories, they are better for knowing the actual ending. Sure, you know WHAT happens, but what makes the story so great is that you don't know HOW it happened. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the mountains of Patagonia and their notoriously stormy weather, the film's direction adds an incredible sense of scale, and perfectly reflects what is going on in the story, while the interviews, far from the dangers of the mountain give it a more personal feel, and while it loses the theatrical tendancies that an entirely filmed version would have, it brings you right into what the three people invovled were thinking and feeling at the time, making it a much more intimate form of storytelling - one that has largely been lost. I'm sure this story has been told around climbing camp-fires for years, but the style of the film is like being told a story by an ancient vagabond storyteller, with the character intimacy of being told the story by the people involved, while keeping the drama and excitement of watching things unfold on screen, not knowing how Joe will escape the creavasse, and somehow keep on going to be interviewed about the experience. This film will blow you away, maybe not in the way that Lord of the Rings might, but in a different and rare way.
on 4 February 2004
Went to see the film recently after reading the book a fair number of times. The book is amazing and I suggest you read it first before seeing the film. Joe Simpson must be one of the most inspirational writers of mountain literature ever. The story tells how sheer determination and courage can pull the human body through the most useless of circumstances. Simon Yates (Joe's climbing partner on the ill fated trip) also gives his account of events during the epic. How either of these people are still alive is beyond comprehension, especially when you go on to read Joe's other books. I can't find words good enough to describe how good this film is. It's a simple conclusion though - you have to see it to believe it.
on 11 March 2016
Superb film. Just a word of warning for people who really don't like horror movies as there is a bit just before the end which i did find too eerie and overwhelming traumatic. Other than that, an amazing film andand special features too.
on 2 March 2004
This film is definitely well worth seeing. Joe Simpson's nightmare descent of Siula Grande is convincingly portrayed, and the story well related in all its gruesome detail. If seeing someone pitting his wits against nature in some of the most trying circumstances imaginable inspires you, watching Touching The Void will probably be a genuinely uplifting experience.
My only criticism - and it must be a purely personal one, because I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere - is that, although the real, live, Simpson's and Yates' commentary added much to the picture, I did actually find that the cut-aways to shots of them talking about their experiences somehow detracted from the suspense. Of course everyone *knows* that they both made it through their ordeal in the end, but to be reminded of it so frequently by these sequences, almost in the style of a cosy little fireside chat, disrupted the continuity a bit for me. And usually just as I was starting to believe that I must have got the story all wrong and Simpson *had* to have perished on the mountainside.
But in just about every other respect, I found the whole thing highly engrossing viewing - the sort of film you're almost sorry you can only see for the first time once...
on 3 August 2012
In 1936, a group of four climbers in competition for a Summit, were killed in their attempt to climb the danderous Eiger's North Face in Switzerland. 72 years later a Film was made about this tragedy ( don't miss "North Face" of the Director Philip Stolzl ), witch shows the horrifying details of this mortal Journey!
In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates achieved by it's West Face the Top of Siula Grande in Cordillera Huayhuash near Peruvian Andes. When they tried to descend it using the same route, Simpson broke his left leg after a short fall down an ice cliff. The crucial pain and the hard conditions of the dangerous descent, delayed them enough time to be caught by a violent Storm. Then, all the efforts of Yates to help his partener became useless, the situation went from bad to worse and suddenly their Lives turned upside down.
These two accidents have something in common: the cut of a rope.
In Eiger, the cut of that rope was supposed to be the salvation of half of the Team, but suddenly and ironically also became their damnation!
In Siula, the rope was cut when Simon Yates after an awfull struggle of an hour and a half with strong winds and snow, lost the contact with his wounded partner under the furious storm, and thought he was dead.
I often asked myself these questions: what was in the Minds of Simpson and Yates to go straight to that remote dangerous Peak, an "Extreme Mountain" in Alpinism vocabulary, already knowing if something went wrong they had no escape? A hidden Wild Place far from everything even from the Camp, without any means of communication nor transport at the time?
Were the five or ten minutes up there worth-while in way to put their Lives at an enormous risk? Were they out of their minds?
All the answers I found are ambiguous! Nobody knows not even experts what motivates these People!
I'm also a lover of Forests Seas and Mountains and know the feeling to be close to the Sky! Un unquestionable secret Power that reduces you to your insignificance...! You are a visitor! You must know exactly were you belong and respect it!
They don't. It seems the Mountain is in their veins, flows in their blood, becomes part of them and they can't breathe without it! Enough is an unexistent word. They want more, They want a conquest!... but Nature cannot be conquered!
In all these Disasters, it looks like Nature is playing God punishing Vanity!
There is a Tragedy here in spite of their survival. The horrible and unbelievable fight experimented for that broken leg Man to stay alive, threw him down for the rest of his days. He's the one who admits it and we can feel that true beyond his words.
But there was another problem! The Filmmakers, Crew and Press, weren't even a bit interested in their feelings but only in making a Movie and sell a good Story! And made it! The Movie is stunning! Extraordinary reconstruction of a true story that hurts and freezes us. An unimaginable and almost contradictory struggling for Life!
There's here an intrinsically athmosphere of great suffering and we can perfectly get inside Simpson's still open Wounds...
And if at first they were reluctant to accept the invitation to help on the Film, soon they would regret to have aggreed on that painful return to the Past!
Don't miss the interesting "making off" and the interviews, because they are a very good illustration of the Real Drama.
on 4 September 2005
Seen it once & wanted to see it again & rarely do I want to show a film to others... this is an exception. Brilliant!
Watching TOUCHING THE VOID, I was reminded of the dangers that face Real Men. This was after I chipped a nail while opening a can of non-alcoholic brew. But, at least my Mommie was sympathetic.
In 1985, two twenty-something Brits, Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, endeavored to climb the 21,000 foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Climbing successfully to the top was easy compared to getting back down, during which Simpson falls off an ice wall driving a shin bone up through the kneecap and splitting his femur. The only good news is that the skin wasn't broken. As Simon subsequently struggles to get the two of them back off the peak, cruel bad luck and circumstance contrive to pitch Joe into a crevasse. Thinking his friend dead, Simon staggers into base camp and prepares to return home. In the meantime, Simpson, still alive, must either go it alone or face certain death from exhaustion and dehydration. Being "between a rock and a hard place" takes on new meaning.
Since this pseudo-documentary begins with interviews with the real Simon and Joe, the audience knows from the start that the latter lives. But that fact doesn't detract from the nail-biting nature of this superb depiction of dogged perseverance and survival recreated by the climbers' own words paired with a brilliant re-enactment of the story both in Peru and in the Alps in which Nicholas Aaron stars as Simon and Brendan Mackey as Joe. The visual link between the four is seamless because the actors are beat-up and sun and wind-burned to the point of being unrecognizable anyway. The climbing scenes, filmed by Kevin Macdonald at night and during storms as necessary to remain true to the story, are perhaps some of the best you'll ever see.
The only other film that comes to mind which gives real-life testimony to Man's remarkable ability to survive against the most terrible of Nature's odds is the THE ENDURANCE (2002), a brilliant chronicle of Ernest Shackleton's doomed 1914-1916 expedition to the South Pole.
My easy chair and the trashy novels I read for vicarious thrills have never looked so inviting.
on 29 April 2004
A semi-documentary based on Joe Simpson's book of the same name detailingone of the most famous climbing stories of all time.
You find out from the very beginning what happens so I feel secure that Iam not spoiling it for you if I sketch out the plot. It is basicallyabout a climb that goes badly wrong. Simpson shatters his leg halfwaydown a mountain in bad weather. His climbing partner, Simon Yates, triesto lower him down the rest of the way on a rope but when further disasterstrikes he is forced to cut that rope to save himself. He returns totheir camp convinced that Simpson is dead but in fact he is still aliveand determined to make it back.
The climb, the accident and Simpson's incredible feat of survival is toldusing actors but is interspersed with comments from Simpson and Yates andthis is what makes this film come alive. Their remarks are refreshinglyhonest which is all the more admirable in the case of Simon Yates who hasbeen demonised in certain quarters as 'the man who cut the rope'. Hecould so easily have twisted his side of tale to make himself appear moreheroic - whether or not you agree with his actions (Simpson himself hasalways defended Yates' decision to cut the rope) it is worth noting thatwhen he returned to their base camp thinking Simpson was dead he couldhave made up any number of plausible reasons to explain why he returnedalone but he always gave a truthful account of his actions. Simpson, too,tells of his incredible journey without seeming to blow his own trumpet. He paints himself as a man too stubborn to die rather than a bravehero.
As well as the film there are some interesting extra featurettes aboutwhat happened next and the climbers' return to the mountain for thefilm.
It all adds up to gripping, sometimes amusing and completely inspirationalviewing. You don't have to be interested in mountaineering to befascinated by this story and it's certainly not just a film for boys.
Oh, and if you do buy this film and enjoy it you should seriouslyconsider reading the book - Simpson writes very well and gives anengrossing account of his journey and his thoughts and fears during thattime.