Tuesday: 17.February.2004

Touching the Void (2)

Saw Touching the Void last night, which finally opened in theaters here in SoCal over the weekend. As is the case with many of these mountaineering sagas, one person gets left for dead .. and in this case, that happened in 1985, in the remote Peruvian Andes, on a never-before-climbed mountain, where others have tried but always failed.

What makes this story so compelling is that this guy (Brit Joe Simpson) gets left for dead inside a deep crevasse, with a broken leg, which means he's unable to climb out under his own power. As he so eloquently puts it: "You don't die of a broken leg." .. which leaves him two (equally unpleasant) options: 1. lay there and die, or 2. descend *deeper* into the crevasse, and hope to find a way out below. It's the only hope he has.

continued

The fact that he's sitting there, on camera, telling you his side of the story, means that the viewer knows he obviously found a way out. But this does not ruin the story. Because the real story is about what happens to a man when he comes to the end of himself. Because *he* didn't know he'd find a way out, and even if he did, that didn't mean he'd survive. He still had a long way to go .. with that broken leg.

The first thing to catch my attention was that these two guys each tell their own side sitting *separately*. You never see them physically together. Which makes you think there's animosity between them - as might be expected, since one cut the rope (lifeline) holding the other. Yet they claim no ill will exists toward the other.

The movie's critical moment is when Joe makes the decision to lower himself deeper into the crevasse - after laying there for an unsettling night. He also decides NOT to tie a knot in the end of the rope, to preclude him from hanging there until he dies, if he finds no way out below. He will simply drop to his death, hopefully ending it quickly.

While discussing the critical moment, Joe mentions being raised Catholic, but has since become an atheist. I could be wrong, but (being the skeptic I am) I don't think he was really atheist. Rather I felt this was a dramatic ploy to emphasize the sense of aloneness lying there in the crevasse. And, indeed, it works well. From a purely statistical perspective however, it struck me as as an unlikely anomaly. (I wonder if that part is mentioned in the book.) He also tries to think of someone he loves, but no one comes to mind.

I appreciated that this movie did not employ hyperbole. It didn't really need to, and that would've ruined it. We saw it at the University-Town theaters on/near the UC campus in Irvine. This is the only theater in the area screening the film. The theater was full except for the first few rows up front. I enjoyed it. Critical reviews posted here. And, yes, I wore my hiking boots to the movie.





Posted by Rad at February 17, 2004 07:04 AM

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