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Touching the Void

Touching the Void

4.8 5
Director: Kevin Macdonald, Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron

Cast: Kevin Macdonald, Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron


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In 1985, two adventurous young mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, set off to climb the treacherous west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They were experienced climbers, and climbed "Alpine-style," climbing the mountain in "one great push," without setting up ropes or base camps ahead of time. After dealing with a snowstorm and some dangerous


In 1985, two adventurous young mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, set off to climb the treacherous west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They were experienced climbers, and climbed "Alpine-style," climbing the mountain in "one great push," without setting up ropes or base camps ahead of time. After dealing with a snowstorm and some dangerous climbing over powder formations, they reached the summit (about 21,000 feet) on the third day. The climb down proved to be far more difficult. Simpson fell and broke his leg badly. Yates decided to try to lower Simpson down the mountain, one 300-foot section of rope at a time. The climbers had run out of gas to melt snow, so they couldn't risk stopping as night came, and a violent snowstorm began. Their plodding, painful journey hit a snag when Yates inadvertently lowered Simpson over the edge of a cliff. In the storm, the men couldn't hear each other's cries, and, Yates, uncertain as to Simpson's position, and gradually sliding down the slope himself, decided to cut the rope that connected them, sending Simpson plummeting to certain death. Miraculously, Simpson survived the fall, and was faced with the prospect of getting off the mountain alone with no food, no water, and a broken leg. In Touching the Void, filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September) tells their story, based on Simpson's book, using contemporary interviews with the two men, and a reenactment of their climb and descent, featuring Brendan Mackey as Simpson and Nicholas Aaron as Yates. Touching the Void was shown at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
Kevin Macdonald's Touching the Void is an expert telling of an amazing true tale. While the story of mountain climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates is an incredibly dramatic true tale of death-defying adventure, and the film is absorbing, Touching the Void also gives a sense of missed opportunity. Macdonald's mix of interview footage and dramatic reenactment works very effectively. By focusing so intently on the minutiae of the mountaineers' harrowing ordeal (close-ups of picks going into ice and of climbers' faces -- stoic frozen masks of endurance), Macdonald gives the audience an almost tactile sense of the cold and the thirst and the pain the two men experienced in the beautifully alien Andean landscape. But it feels like there's an emotional component to the story that's missing. The film barely touches on who Simpson and Yates are as people, and the nature of their relationship. After the fact, Yates was widely criticized in mountaineering circles for his actions, which is the reason Simpson has given for writing his book, but Macdonald only notes this in a closing title. Macdonald is clearly interested in shaping documentary footage into exciting narrative structures. If One Day in September was a political thriller, Touching the Void could be seen as an action-adventure. It's an action-adventure, essentially, about a man crawling down a mountain, a few feet at a time. Macdonald, perhaps to keep up the pace, eschews much of the personal drama underpinning the survival tale. The film is never less than engrossing, but it does leave one wanting to know more.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

The most harrowing movie about mountain climbing I have seen, or can imagine.

Product Details

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Brendan Mackey Joe Simpson
Nicholas Aaron Simon Yates

Technical Credits
Kevin Macdonald Director
Patrick Bill Art Director,Costumes/Costume Designer
Mike Duffield Sound/Sound Designer
Mike Eley Cinematographer
Susie Figgis Casting
Charles Furneaux Executive Producer
Robin Gutch Executive Producer
Alex Heffes Score Composer
Nick Laws Asst. Director
Keith Partridge Cinematographer
John Smithson Producer
Paul Sowerbutts Associate Producer
Sue Summers Co-producer
Joakim Sundström Sound/Sound Designer
Paul Trijbits Executive Producer
Justine Wright Editor


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Touching the Void 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My son and I saw this film in Salt Lake this winter. Hold onto your seats! This is one realtistic portrayal of an actual climb. What these two go through is incredible. I highly recommend this movie for any outdoor enthuiast or anyone who thinks his burden in life is heavy. Truly an inspiration applicable to everyday life in the sense that - you can do it - but only if you try. We enjoyed every minute of the film and will be buying the DVD. If you could have seen the expressions on our faces as we watched the movie, you would easily understand our enthusiasm for the people who put this highly realistic re-enactment together and brought real climbing to the screen. FANTASTIC!!! I'll never forget it or the feeling of inpsiration I had watching it. Sylvester Stallone - go back to boxing films.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those extraordinary films, most particularly because it is true and you have commentary throughout the film by the interesting people who lived it. What is next for any of us is always right in front of us. This movie is about great accomplishment by facing what is next, in this case 20 feet at a time. This movie is art through and through. The depth of it cannot be verbalized.
vink More than 1 year ago
After watching this movie about a horrific mountain climbing accident, I couldn't get it out of my mind for weeks. It's an amazing example of our human ability to not only survive but to keep moving forward while facing immense physical pain, starvation/dehydration, and a brutal, unforgiving climate. If I ever find myself in a seemingly hopeless situation, I will try to channel these people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some of the harshest critics of adventure films,especially among surfers and climbers, are the avid enthsiasts themselves. Nothing is ever too good. Not the case with this one. Kevin Macdonald does an excellent job retelling a true story with docu-drama style,adding the realism of an actual climb interspliced with commentary by the actual climbers. Slow moving at times, but with Mike Eley's photography and moving performances by the actor-climbers, the visuals alone keep you enthralled in the what could-possibly-happen-next story line. What started out as another notch-on-the-carabiner climb on a relatively obscure peak, ends up as that day every adventurer trains for daily...the ultimate what could go wrong struggle for survival that separates the real climbers from the wannabes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I likes it some lot. It was scary too. Sometimes afraid. Sometimes not. Crying sometimes. Guy was nice and strong. You watch it and like.