Touching the Void
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Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to climb the west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. It was 1985 and the men were young, fit, skilled climbers. The west face, remote and treacherous, had not been climbed before. Following a successful three-and-a-half-day ascent, disaster struck. Simpson fell a short distance and broke several bones in his leg. With no hope of rescue, the men decided to attempt descent together with Yates lowering Simpson 300 feet at a time in a slow, painful process that could have potentially been deadly for both. One further misstep led to Yates unknowingly lowering his injured partner over the lip of a crevasse. With the gradient having gone from steep to vertical, he was no longer able to hold on. Certain they were about to be pulled jointly to their deaths, the only choice was to cut the rope. How Simpson survived the fall, and made it back to base camp is a story that will astound and inspire. In Touching the Void, Yates and! Simpson return to t
To describe Touching the Void as a mountaineering documentary would be to do this breathtaking drama an injustice. By intercutting narration from the climbers themselves with a nail-biting reconstruction of their remarkable adventure in the Peruvian Andes, the film has the best of both genres: the authentic stamp of factual storytelling and the edge-of-the-seat tension of a dramatic movie.
In 1985, two British mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, embarked on a daring--arguably reckless in the extreme--attempt to climb the previously unconquered mountain Siula Grande. A mixture of overconfidence in their own abilities and underestimation of the climb's difficulties brought them to grief after the successful slog to the summit. What follows is an often harrowing account of their perilous descent.
Based on Joe Simpson's gripping book, the film boasts glorious widescreen photography of Siula Grande and its notorious glacier. Actors take the place of the two climbers for close-ups, though Simpson did return to Peru in order to reenact parts of his dreadful crawl back down the ice. The story of Simpson's almost-superhuman fortitude has become legendary in climbing circles, and even for viewers uninterested in mountaineering, Touching the Void is an astonishing slice of real-life drama, magnificently retold. --Mark WalkerSee all Editorial Reviews
- Making-of featurette
- "Return to Siula Grande" featurette
- "What Happened Next" interview with Joe Simpson and Simon Yates
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NOTE TO BUYER: This won't play in many DVD/Blu-ray players. Something about the REGION.
In this film production , while professional actors duly play Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, the 'real' Simpson and Yates comment on the film as the film progresses. I don't mean some viewer option 'commentary' DVD machine turn on/turn off kind of thing, I mean the actual 'visuals' of the real Joe Simpson and Simon Yates commenting throughout the film itself. One could say it's a documentary versus 'movie' per se but the direct input of Simpson and Yates, at least in this case and IMO of course, only adds to the film. And its accuracy.
Now for the biggie: It's hardly any secret that Simon Yates took some heavy flak from certain folks in the mountaineering fraternity citing what they believe to be the unwritten code or "golden rule", viz., "you don't cut the rope!" That's of course very easy to say when it's someone 'else' who is involved in such horror filled time spans but my own feeling is who is to say what one will do or not do in such dire circumstances! And keep this one in mind: I keep hearing as the alleged 'primary' reason for Yates cutting the rope [from various and sundry who are highly critical of Yates] that, "Yates says he thought Simpson was dead" and followed by "how could Yates ever know this!" but I suggest that Yates believing Simpson was dead was a 'secondary' consideration and the 'primary' consideration was the FACT that Yates was 'himself' being slowly but surely edged off the mountain. In effect, 'both' climbers could have fallen had the rope not been cut and who is to say the result then!
Further, and of cogence, Simpson 'defended' the action of Yates cutting the rope. Simpson also dedicated his book to Simon Yates. Recall too that in the real drama, Simpson landed on a small ledge "within a few feet of a deep drop-off" within the crevasse. Who is to say what the impact of that ledge landing would have been had 'both' men tumbled off the mountain? Yates could not pull Simpson up nor was Simpson capable of assisting in any upward climb on the rope, Yates was himself being edged off the vertical and into oblivion by the weight of the rope -- what does one do! Finally, and think about this one, Simpson was freezing to death on the end of that rope during the storm and, ironically, landing in the crevasse after the rope was cut actually sheltered him [such as it was but nevertheless shelter] from the brunt of the storm and significantly reduced the effect of the storm winds [while dangling on the rope] with regard to acute hypothermia and wind-chill issues.
On the other hand, we have a situation here where both men did survive and were able to fill in the gaps as to what happened versus some 'conjectured' scenario of having no input from the original climbers involved. And, hey, OK, I'll play, what would 'I' have done? I don't know! I've mercifully not been in a situation like that but what I'm grousing about are those Yates detractors who were not there yet castigate Yates by simply parroting "You don't cut the rope!" ad infinitum suggesting that no matter the circumstances, ahhh, 'they' would 'never' conceive of doing such a thing. No-no, not they! 'They' would allegedly die first, kind of thing, and allegedly never even give a passing thought to touching that rope but I'm not so sure that kind of statement can be made when the speaker of same is not the one involved in the decision! Or the intense physical and psychological stress of the moment as one is being edged off the mountain and into oblivion themselves!
It's a gripping film and has various extras including the making of the film featurette and "Return to Siula Grande" with further interviews with Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. BTW, it also shows the truism that the 'majority' of accidents in mountaineering endeavors occur on the 'descent' versus the 'ascent' -- as the most recent K2 tragedy [August 1, 2008] well demonstrates where 11 experienced climbers were killed.