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Film Review Touching The Void

Posted on by sam

Touching The Void

Director: Kevin Macdonald (2003)

‘It was fun’

‘We were excited’

‘We weren’t thinking about the dangers’

Why do so many documentaries about people attempting dangerous feats begin like that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we mere mortals shouldn’t attempt dangerous feats, I did a skydive (which did fuck all to relieve my fear of heights) it’s just I wish they’d think it through and consider the dangers before they began, then maybe they’d cope better when, as ever, something doesn’t go to plan!

Touching the void. It’s 1985, two young men climb the only wacky named mountain in the Peruvian Andes, it goes a bit wrong, they talk about it in a documentary while we are shown scenes from a glorious re-enactment, which helpfully dresses one character in red and one in blue to make the action easy to follow. It’s a compelling story and one built in a day by day format.  I’m going to do my best to avoid revealing any of the plot and may even throw in a few fake moments just to make-sure I don’t ruin this film.

As far as documentaries go Touching The Void is pretty good, actually it’s very good. The two guys are very British stiff upper lip but they’re also gripping story tellers. They recount events like aliens abducting them, or stopping halfway up to play Croquet in an incredibly matter of fact way. Events go horribly wrong, mortality is faced and yet they both speak so openly, as if it were a walk in the park and they saw some ducks. The acting in the re-enactments is hit and miss. The scenes are good, clearly they actually did a climb for the re-enactment and it’s impressive the amount of detail they show, but there’s a lot of not quite believable cries of pain and swearing which are at best distracting and at worse comedic. Thankfully they’re few and far between.

The shots are breath taking, there’s a sequence at the top of the mountain which is just stunning in detail. The interviews are filmed at a close angle and are pretty intimate and the music is incredibly well thought out. It acts as an accompaniment in some scenes but is executed subtly.

All in all then: a good documentary. As for the topic, well I respect and admire these two as I do anyway whose crazy enough to try these kind of things, I just wish they’d think through the fact they might die before they do perilous things, or at least put in a contingency plan for when it does inevitably go wrong!

Written by Sam ‘I won’t bother going to the mountain in the hopes it doesn’t come to me’ McKinstrie