Review by: Oli Burley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed at present
CLIMBING is lunacy in my book, but Touching the Void proves that,
in extreme cases, mountaineers do deserve a foothold in our admiration.
This men-against-mountain true story is, to be more accurate,
about a harrowing descent made by Brits, Joe Simpson and Simon
Yates, in the Peruvian Andes, in 1985.
After scaling the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande,
their journey back down becomes a struggle for survival that makes
you think twice about wishing for a white Christmas.
The feature-documentary, produced for Film Four, allows the duo
to retell their own account of the venture alongside a dramatic
reconstruction, but it flounders at first, as if stuck in powder
Climbing is 'fun', we learn, the mountain looks 'big'. But, as
the expedition starts to go wrong, this matter-of-fact approach
helps to highlight that these are indeed next-door
men trapped in exceptional circumstances.
The problems begin when Simpson falls, breaking his leg
an accident that he reflects, with delicious understatement worthy
of England rugby union coach, Clive Woodward, 'was not in our
With no chance of rescue, and the weather worsening, Simpson
is body-bag material, but his partner heroically attempts to lower
him down the mountain before finally having to admit defeat.
Yates inadvertently leaves Simpson dangling over a 100ft drop
and to save himself from being dragged to his own doom, condemns
his friend to what seems a certain death by cutting the rope that
But as he trudges back to Base Camp, Simpsons own miraculous
story three and a half days of physical and psychological
fortitude - is only just beginning.
Stranded in a colossal crevasse, desperate for nourishment, frostbitten
and in excruciating pain, Simpson - who fetchingly describes himself
as 'insanely stubborn' - is confronted by death.
Stripped of all dignity, it is his will and his indignant
desire not to die with a Bony M track playing repeatedly in his
mind that somehow keeps him going against the unyielding
force of nature, whose beauty and power are captured magnificently.
Director, Kevin MacDonald, thankfully dwells on Simpsons
degradation, layer by layer, rather than the technicalities of
the climb and, as a consequence, enhances the films emotional
and spiritual impact.
That approach also ensures that, despite the pairs successful
quest for glory, it is the triumph of the human spirit that deserves
the greatest acclamation.