Touching the Void (2003)

Touching the Void is a 2003 docudrama film directed by Kevin MacDonald. The film focuses on the near-fatal climb of Siula Grande in the Cordillera Huayhuash in the Peruvian Andes attempted by Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. The film was adapted from the book of the same name which was written by Simpson and published in 1988.

The film begins in 1985 with experienced mountaineers Simpson and Yates setting out to attempt a never-before-made climb of the Siula Grande in Peru.

However, disaster strikes once both Simpson and Yates reach the summit as a storm brews which results in a major fall where Joe sustains a badly broken leg. During this ordeal, both mountaineers attempt self-rescue by lowering Joe, however, Joe eventually drops over the edge and is left suspended by the rope, however, Simon can neither hear or see his friend, leaving him in a predicament of whether to cut the rope connecting the two or wait in hope of assistance.

After being unable to pull Joe back over the cliff and gradually losing his grip on the rope, Simon realizes that there is little chance for recovery for either of them at this point which ultimately leads him to cut the rope which connected the two. Simon eventually makes his way down the mountain and back to his and Joe’s base camp where he stays to recover before departing.

However, it is revealed that Joe, who is now trapped in a large crevasse, survived his fall. He manages to lower himself further into the crevasse where he finds an exit which leads to the base of the mountain. He then spends days making his way down the mountain, persevering through a broken leg, which he attempts to keep stable using various ties and padding, frostbite, and dehydration. An exhausted Joe eventually makes it to the base camp, battered and bruised, but alive, only a few hours before Simon had intended to leave.

Touching the Void has all the attributes in making a good documentary. It has a strong narrative and very proficient camera work and sound design and uses these in presenting the story of both Simpson and Yates.

The visual features of the film are very striking. The film combines a dramatization of the events along with interviews featuring the real Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, it may also be noted that prior to the making of the film, Simpson and Yates had not seen each other for 10 years. The dramatization sequences are very well shot and feature very proficient cinematography of the mountain which was climbed whereas the Interviews were staged very nicely using a backdrop to avoid any background distractions.

The sound design in the film is very high in quality, especially in the dramatization sequences where a lot of wild track had to be used for the storm, as well as Joe’s fall into the crevasse.

In conclusion to my review of Touching the Void, this is a very well made documentary which benefits from an incredible story and narrative as well as striking visual and sound design. I would recommend that this documentary is viewed by anyone who enjoys a good documentary as I believe you do not get any better than this.

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