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:: Touching The Void

Stunningly filmed and absolutely gripping, Touching The Void is as exciting as a Hollywood thriller but more astounding, as this story is true. A terrifying tale of survival unfolds amid dazzling beauty of the Peruvian Andes, in what is deservedly the most successful documentary in UK box-office history.

It was 1985 when two British mountaineers set out to scale the unconquered face of Siula Grande, a menacing 21,000ft peak enswathed in ice and snow. Young and full of confidence, Simon Yates and Joe Simpson made the attempt in old-fashioned Alpinist style; two men tied together by a rope, labouring toward the summit, with few breaks and no support crew.

The place is remote, treacherous and desolate. When blizzard catches them full force on the mountainside, they have no way to call for help. With a broken leg, Simpson hangs over a fathomless abyss by the rope that connects them, helpless. In zero visibility, Yates can’t see the danger or hear the screams. With Simpson’s weight on the rope, he is slipping down the ice.

Should he try to save his friend, who may already be dead? Should he cut the rope to save himself? His choice sets the scene for an extraordinary and inspiring story of human endurance and the sheer determination to live.

Director Kevin Macdonald, who won an Oscar for his documentary One Day in September, has set a new benchmark in this brilliant adaptation of Simpson’s best-selling book about the tragedy. The film cuts between a re-enactment of events and recent interviews with Simpson and Yates. They tell their story simply, yet their words have such power they are unforgettable. These interludes, cleverly interspersed through the drama, build nail-biting suspense and leave you amazed that both men somehow survived.

The cinematography is superb and gives an explicit understanding of the vastness and terrible beauty of the landscape. This film needs to be seen on the big screen to get the full effect.

Touching The Void has already snared this year’s BAFTA award for Best British Film and has been released to critical acclaim in Britain, the US and much of Europe. Whether you are a fan of documentaries or of action blockbusters, this amazing film is worth seeing twice.