July 22, 2013

Touching the Void

Kevin MacDonald, 2003

Using first-hand interviews interlaced with accurate reenactment footage, this docu-drama covers the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, a pair mountain climbers who run into trouble when one of them falls and breaks their leg while attempting to climb the west face of the Siula Grande in the Andes mountains in 1985.

It is undeniably a story worth telling. Using the technique of reenacting the journey, it certainly puts you in the action. The camera is not just fixated on the side of the mountain either. Unique locations like elevated above the climbers, down at the base of the snow where you see chips of ice falling on the lens. It makes the work much more cinematic, more entertaining than if you were just sitting watching two veteran climbers reflect on their journey. When the heavy snow is pinning them to the sides of the cliff at night while they look above with miner's lights on their helmets - you really get a sense of the comradery involved. Connected by a piece of rope, their lives are really in each others hands. The sudden decision made by one of the climbers is made in a few seconds but is clearly a life-changing one. It certainly presents a moral dilemma to the film that leaves the viewer wondering what he or she would do in the same situation. When the film makes a shift into a more survival-based theme, its very reminiscent of the struggle in Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. Like that story, there is a focus on the resilience of the human body. The film certainly explores the concept that perhaps there are parts to this world that are not meant to be accessed. But that wouldn't be human nature would it? We are curious creatures, bound to take risks. We are eager to put our foot in virgin soil. We want to make our mark.

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