Touching the Void

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Capelworth
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Touching the Void

Post by Capelworth » Tue Jun 01, 2004 4:21 am

If you're up for a very good movie that tells one of the greatest climbing stories I've ever read...

Touching the Void

I'd highly recommend this one.

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Post by Capelworth » Tue Jun 08, 2004 7:43 am

The movie is coming to video on 6/15. I'm going to buy it. :D

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Here's Ebert's review. It doesn't do the movie justice, but Ebert is my favorite movie critic, so...

(Note: don't read past the line in bold if you intend to see the movie.)
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times wrote:TOUCHING THE VOID
**** (Not rated)

February 6, 2004

IFC Films presents a film directed by Kevin Macdonald. Written by Joe Simpson, based on his book. Running time: 106 minutes. No MPAA rating (intended for mature audiences).

BY ROGER EBERT

For someone who fervently believes he will never climb a mountain, I spend an unreasonable amount of time thinking about mountain-climbing. In my dreams my rope has come lose and I am falling, falling, and all the way down I am screaming: "Stupid! You're so stupid! You climbed all the way up there just so you could fall back down!"

Now there is a movie more frightening than my nightmares. "Touching the Void" is the most harrowing movie about mountain climbing I have seen, or can imagine. I've read reviews from critics who were only moderately stirred by the film (my friend Dave Kehr certainly kept his composure), and I must conclude that their dreams are not haunted as mine are.

I didn't take a single note during this film. I simply sat there before the screen, enthralled, fascinated and terrified. Not for me the discussions about the utility of the "pseudo-documentary format," or questions about how the camera happened to be waiting at the bottom of the crevice when Simpson fell in. "Touching the Void" was, for me, more of a horror film than any actual horror film could ever be.

The movie is about Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, two Brits in their mid-20s who were determined to scale the forbidding west face of a mountain named Siula Grande, in the Peruvian Andes. They were fit and in good training, and bold enough to try the "one push" method of climbing, in which they carried all their gear with them instead of establishing caches along the route. They limited their supplies to reduce weight, and planned to go up and down quickly.

It didn't work out that way. Snowstorms slowed and blinded them. The ascent was doable, but on the way down, the storms disoriented them and the drifts concealed the hazard of hidden crevices and falls. Roped together, they worked with one man always anchored, and so Yates was able to hold the rope when Simpson had a sudden fall. But it was disastrous: He broke his leg, driving the calf bone up through the knee socket. Both of them knew that a broken leg on a two-man climb, with rescue impossible, was a death sentence, and indeed Simpson tells us he was rather surprised that Yates decided to stay with him and try to get him down.

We know that Simpson survived, because the movie shows the real-life Simpson and Yates, filmed against plain backgrounds, looking straight on into the camera, remembering their adventure in their own words. We also see the ordeal re-enacted by two actors (Brendan Mackey as Simpson, Nicholas Aaron as Yates), and experienced climbers are used as stunt doubles. The movie was shot on location in Peru and also in the Alps, and the climbing sequences are always completely convincing; the use of actors in those scenes is not a distraction because their faces are so bearded, frost-bitten and snow-caked that we can hardly recognize them.

Yates and Simpson had a 300-foot rope. Yates' plan was to lower Simpson 300 feet and wait for a tug on the rope. That meant Simpson had dug in and anchored himself and it was safe for Yates to climb down and repeat the process. A good method in theory, but then, after dark, in a snow storm, Yates lowered Simpson over a precipice and left him hanging in mid-air over a drop of unknowable distance. Because they were out of earshot in the blizzard, all Yates could know was that the rope was tight and not moving, and his feet were slipping out of the holes he had dug to brace them. After an hour or so, he realized they were at an impasse. Simpson was hanging in mid air, Yates was slipping, and unless he cut the rope they would both surely die. So he cut the rope.

Simpson says he would have done the same thing under the circumstances, and we believe him. What we can hardly believe is what happens next, and what makes the film into an incredible story of human endurance.

If you plan to see the film -- it will not disappoint you -- you might want to save the rest of the review until later.

Simpson, incredibly, falls into a crevice but is slowed and saved by several snow bridges he crashes through before he lands on an ice ledge with a drop on either side. So there he is, in total darkness and bitter cold, his fuel gone so that he cannot melt snow, his lamp battery running low, and no food. He is hungry, dehydrated, and in cruel pain from the bones grinding together in his leg (two aspirins didn't help much).

It is clear Simpson cannot climb back up out of the crevice. So he eventually gambles everything on a strategy that seems madness itself, but was his only option other than waiting for death: He uses the rope to lower himself down into the unknown depths below. If the distance is more than 300 feet, well, then, he will literally be at the end of his rope.

But there is a floor far below, and in the morning he sees light and is able, incredibly, to crawl out to the mountainside. And that is only the beginning of his ordeal. He must somehow get down the mountain and cross a plain strewn with rocks and boulders, so that he cannot walk but must try to hop or crawl despite the pain in his leg. That he did it is manifest, since he survived to write a book and appear in the movie. How he did it provides an experience that at times had me closing my eyes against his agony.

This film is an unforgettable experience, directed by Kevin Macdonald (who made "One Day in September," the Oscar-winner about the 1972 Olympiad) with a kind of brutal directness and simplicity that never tries to add suspense or drama (none is needed!) but simply tells the story, as we look on in disbelief.

We learn at the end that after two years of surgery Simpson's leg was repaired, and that (but you anticipated this, didn't you?) he went back to climbing again. Learning this, I was reminded of Boss Gettys' line about Citizen Kane: "He's going to need more than one lesson." I hope to God the rest of his speech does not apply to Simpson: "... and he' s going to get more than one lesson."

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Post by choyrt » Sat Jun 12, 2004 8:13 pm

"Show us on the void where they touched you!"

That's right, Cappy . . . I forgot how much you adored hiking and the outdoors. Where you live, I bet there's tons of good camp grounds and trails.

I'll be sure to check it out. I know it's a small genre, but any other good cloimbing movie's you can think of? How was K4?

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Post by choyrt » Sat Jun 12, 2004 9:38 pm


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Capelworth
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Post by Capelworth » Thu Jun 17, 2004 8:43 am

That picture was taken between Camp Muir and Paradise in a whiteout on Mt. Rainier (at about 8,000 feet).

Here are a few more where those came from...
http://www.geocities.com/capelworth/vacpics.html

...and I have hundreds more from those climbs and others. :D

By K4, I'm assuming that you mean K2. K2 is the second highest (and arguably the most difficult) mountain in the world, and two fiction movies have been made about climbs on it. The first movie, based on the story of the first two Americans to climb it, was made in 1992. It's probably the best non-documentary climbing movie I've seen--but that isn't saying much. Most climbing movies are lousy, and that one is no exception. Still, it's far better than this rubbish.

This TV movie, also fictionalized, is based on Jon Krakauer's account of the 1996 Everest disaster. It's awful. It's a shame, really, because it was based on one of the the better mountaineering books ever written (and the only one to become a New York Times bestseller). Hollywood is apparently working on a big screen adaptation of the story now, though.

All of the best movies and books are true accounts and documentaries. There are plenty of unbelievable climbing stories, and they need no embellishment.

Here are a few of the higher profile ones:

The Conquest of Everest - It's old (1953), but it's a classic.

The Nova (PBS Show) Everest Series - These are terrific, very well-done. They tell some of the great old stories, though most deal with the mystery of Mallory and Irvine. Some are by David Breashears, Robert Shauer

Everest - The IMAX movie has some good stuff, but is rather disappointing. I've met David Breashears (who shot the movie) and read his autobiography High Exposure, but this isn't his best work. It stars Ed Viesturs, one of the current superstars of mounteering and the most accomplished American high-altitude climber ever; Araceli Segarra, a Spanish rock climber; and Jamling Tenzing Norgay, Tenzing Norgay's (who, along with Sir Edmund Hillary was the first to summit the mountain) son. Unfortunately, it's more interesting reading Breashears' account of lugging the 45-pound camera to the top of the world and making it work in subzero temperatures wearing mittens and oxygen masks than it is watching the result.

Really, though, none of these movies hold a candle to Touching the Void. That's why I recommended it. It's also worth noting that while thousands of climbers have made it to the top of Mount Everest and hundreds to the top of K2, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are the only two men ever to set foot on the top of Siula Grande. And they did it 19 years ago.

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Post by kumquatq3 » Thu Jun 17, 2004 7:22 pm

looks good, I heard about it awhile back in Mens Journal magazine, have to check it out
[quote="Hakuri"] If she had a good personality, maybe I'd consider it, but she doesn't even have cable TV up there.[/quote]

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Post by choyrt » Thu Jun 17, 2004 10:10 pm

Capelworth wrote:By K4, I'm assuming that you mean K2.
Nope. I mean a mountain TWICE AS HIGH than K2!

:look:

I will certainly be checking the Void out. But nobody touches my void. Nobody.

Does the film show anyone sleeping while hanging off the side of the mountain? I've heard about that, but never seen it. I cannot imagine the internal tranquility that must be felt by the climber, bolting a hammock into the mountainside. Have you ever done this, Cappy?

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