TOUCHING THE VOID is a stunning and suspenseful documentary of two mountaineering friends who are confronted with the climb of their lives in South America. In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to climb the west face of Siula Grande, a remote 21,000 peak in the Peruvian Andes.
Joe and Simon are young, ambitious, and ready to take on the world. Each enjoyed the solace of mountain climbing and its thrills and adventures. After conquering various Alpine mountains they turn their attention to a particular mountain in Peru that had never been climbed before.
After three treacherous days they reach the summit, but little did they know that their adventure just began. The pivotal moment occurred when Joe suddenly fell and suffered a serious, painful broken leg. Certain that his fate was sealed Joe expects Simon to leave him behind.
But Simon did everything he could to help Joe, which included the slow and tedious process of going down the mountain inch by inch while on their back or side. But disaster struck again when Joe became suspended in air after falling over an edge.
Simon, in an act that will cause controversy and alarm, cut the rope that sent Joe tumbling into a crevasse without much hope for rescue. Meanwhile, Simon returns to base camp thinking that Joe never survived the fall. He is full of grief and fear. But what he doesn’t know is that Joe indeed did not die and is slowly climbing down the mountain on his own. He suffers extreme pain, dehydration, frostbite, and fatigue.
This film contains narration by Joe and Simon with reenactment footage that creates a powerful and emotional experience for the viewer. Although it is obvious that Joe has survived the ordeal, one can’t help wondering how this can be true.
I was certain that he would die on the mountain alone in his pain and suffering. What makes this a strong film is that much time and effort was dedicated to detailing the psychological drama that Joe suffered since his leg was broken.
As a result the viewer is given a frank look into his thoughts, emotions, and fears. It was certainly a glimpse which is difficult to shake. It is easy for the audience to become “involved” while watching this film.
Many people squirm in their seats and gasp out loud and these two men rehash their story. The stunning cinematography and audio results in the audience being sweep away in the drama. Heck, there were many moments when I thought I was on the mountain too.
One doesn’t need to be an expert at mountain climbing to enjoy this film. Any novice will fast become interesting in the fate of these two men. I must more appreciate the risks involved in this sport, and would highly recommend this film Touching the Void to others.
A DVD review by S. Calhoun “rhymeswithorange” (Chicago, IL United States), courtesy of Amazon.com