Already a boys’ own classic, Kevin MacDonald’s award-winning doc about two foolhardy Brit mountaineers scaling the 21,000ft Andean peak of Peru’s Siula Grande is almost hideously gripping. Brilliantly paced, Touching The Void re-enacts the climb?and the descent, more to the point?with actors Brendan Mackey and Nicholas Aaron. But much of the drama lies in the memories of climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, the interviews with whom are candid and vulnerable. Simpson’s combination of obtuse spunk?”I bloody well was gonna do it”?and tearful openness contrasts with Yates’ unwarranted but understandable guilt for having cut the rope on his partner.
The terrifying white silence and merciless permanence of Siula Grande is majestically conjured by the cinematography, which really does demand to be seen on the big screen. More than anything, Touching The Void makes clear man’s absurd insignificance in the face of such implacable beauty. The void is the void of nature?of a world that doesn’t need us.
Having said that, the triumph of Joe’s will in his determination to survive is a profound testament to the human spirit. And you do come away from the film thinking: “I will never, ever, complain about anything again. Ever.”