The thrill of life is, for many, in the challenge of the
unattainable — in accomplishing those rare feats that
distinguish one person from the herd. Although mountain climbing
would certainly not be the choice of many for sensational living,
“Touching the Void” makes this world logical and
real.

During the summer of 1985, two British friends in their early
20s, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, attempted to climb the Suila
Grande in the Peruvian Andes to legendary acclaim in the
mountaineering community.

After a relatively easy ascent, the story takes hold once the
climbers attempt their nightmarish descent. On the way down, Joe
lands awkwardly; his leg pushes up into his knee, which effectively
makes him dead weight for his partner. After risking his safety to
carry Joe, Simon cuts their connection and leaves Joe to his own
fate. Once apart, their struggle continues — their unique
paths establishing the heart of the movie.

Part documentary and part re-enactment, the film captures the
minutiae of mountain climbing without the jargon. Through the use
of close-up shots detailing the mechanical aspects of the sport and
descriptive narration of the characters’ thoughts,
“Void” captures the emotion of the duo’s
peril.

The elemental brutality is crystalline, as tales of -80 degree
weather and images of frozen and tattered faces make a warm
fireplace look a little friendlier. Confronted with every challenge
imaginable, these two men, and their sheer perseverance, are
nothing less than inspiring.

The symmetrical retelling of the events gives the film
additional resonance. Although there is no mystery, since the two
survivors dictate their tale to the camera, the impossibility of
their predicament keeps the admiration levels high.

With the prominence of documentaries over the last two years,
this stlye of storytelling is more assessable to mainstream
audiences. The account is a truthful and identical recapitulation
of one event by everyone involved.

As an atheist, Joe wondered if he would turn to God at his most
desperate moment. Trapped in a cave with no supplies, water, heat
or hope, he found himself resolute in his disbelief. Through
Joe’s drive for survival, “Touching the Void”
boasts a deep humanism that forces you to contemplate that maybe
life’s purpose is to live.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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