Touching The Void

Touching The Void

Recent cinema has presented us with heroes and adventurers in the form of Neo, Aragorn, and Captain Jack Sparrow men who have to make life and death decisions. This docudrama presents the 1985 incident in the lives of British climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. The decision that Simon had to make whilst climbing down an Andean peak has gone down in climbing history but the real story is of what happen next.

The fact that these two men climbed this mountain on its west face a feat not achieved before or since is worthy in it’s self but for the detail of this you will need to read the book of the same title, it is the events of the descent that concern the filmmakers.

Having climbed the west face and reached the summit Joe and Simon descended along the northern ridge heading for a point between two peaks where they can absail down to a glacier and back to their base camp. However, Joe slips whilst climbing down and ice wall and drives his lower leg bone through his knee. Joe is now completely reliant on the reaction and actions of Simon to get off the peak back down 4500 feet. Without a permanent anchor point just seats dug out of the snow Simon lowered Joe around 3700 ft, 300ft at a time. Working into the night and darkness Simon and Joe thought they were getting away with a rescue, which by rights should not have been achievable when a second more crucial incident took place. Joe went over another ice wall, this one was much larger than the first, and worse Simon was not in a position to see what had happen. Unable to pull Joe up and slowly being pulled off the mountain himself, SIMON CUT THE ROPE!

Believing his friend to be dead and knowing that he would also be dead if he had not cut Joe loose Simon descended alone the following day, seeing the ice wall and a cravas below it the full extent of his actions were presented to him. Joe survived the fall…

I have read the book this film was based on and where the book dwells on the up and down of the mountain the film rushes towards the defining moments of the descent. The use of the narration by the men involved and their friend Richard who waited at the bottom for their return overlaying and interlaced with live action footage shot in the Andes and the Alps works very well for a story which has been through various hands including Tom Cruise’s and proved to difficult for a conventional fictional adaptation.

If you are looking or something real, a different type of film that isn’t three and a half hours long or you simply can’t get tickets to Lord of the Rings then I would strongly recommend this film. It is a story of friendship, disaster, luck (good and bad) and the human spirit to survive.

Pip Johnstone

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