Touching the Void

Poster for Touching the Void

Autumn 2004 Edge series

Sunday, September 12, 2004 at 7:00pm

Empire Theatres, New Minas, NS

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, and Richard Hawking

Rated NR · 1h 46m
United Kingdom

In June of 1985, two young and talented British climbers set out to tame the unconquered west face of Siula Grande, a remote, twenty-one thousand-foot peak in the Peruvian Andes. Two-and-a-half days after tiptoeing up near-vertical icefields, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates reached the summit. Little did they know their epic was only beginning. What ensued is one of the most gripping tales in mountain history, a survival story to rival the great epics: the notorious 1996 Mount Everest tragedy (immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air) and Shackleton’s remarkable 1914-16 Antarctic expedition.

Simpson’s Touching the Void, the story of how he survived to tell the tale, has been turned into a finely wrought and highly compelling docudrama by Kevin Macdonald, a filmmaker best known for his Academy Award-winning One Day in September. Macdonald and his film crew restaged — on location — some most extraordinary and realistic mountain-climbing footage, intercutting these scenes with interviews with Simpson, Yates and their base-camp companion, Richard Hawking.

The line between safety and disaster in the high mountains is thin and Simpson and Yates tested these limits to the full. Soon after they began to descend, Simpson broke his leg and faced the arduous task of climbing down while unable to walk. More unbelievable than fiction, the climbers’ nightmare involves not only a horrendous descent in a snowstorm, but a tortuous decision. When the rope joining them turns into a death trap, Yates decides to cut it (virtually criminal behaviour in the climbing world), sending Simpson crashing into the depths of a crevasse and condemning him to almost certain death. Very much alive, Simpson faces one of those tests that, more often than not, end in tragedy.

Touching the Void at once deals with the unconquerable human spirit and examines the ties that bind two men when they join themselves by a rope and set off to challenge extreme landscapes. Beautifully filmed, this retelling of an epic tale of survival takes us places most would never dare visit.