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Touching the Void

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
Touching the Void

from Film Forum, 02/26/04

Several recent "reality films" have won raves from critics, many of whom heralded 2003 as "the Year of the Documentary." 2004 looks like it will continue the trend, and the first highly praised documentary of the year is Touching the Void. Featuring dramatic re-creations and in-depth interviews, Kevin Macdonald's film narrates the suspenseful, astonishing tale of two ambitious mountain climbers—Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. They recount their challenging ascent of Peru's Siula Grande in 1985, a devastating life-and-death decision, and a story of seemingly impossible survival.

Stef Loy (The Matthews House Project) says, "'The Void' in the film's title could represent death, or the dark shaft of icy underworld Joe must eventually lower himself into in order to save himself. It could also represent the mental hallucinatory state that took over when Joe's psychological facilities started going haywire. Whatever 'the Void' is—and it's probably many things—it's a chance for a man to reach outside himself for something or someone to deliver him. For Joe, the only thing that keeps him going is his desire to not die alone. The void gives voice to the sound a soul makes when pressed and pinned to the point of implosion."

Jerry Langford (Movieguide) says, "Their story would be unbelievable as fiction, yet [is] honestly chronicled in this convincing documentary. It will grip your sense of wonder and imagination as powerfully as an ice axe driven into a glacier wall. Watching these men struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds is tremendously inspiring." But Langford criticizes it for the inclusion of "harsh language and numerous profanities." He also gives the film bad marks for including one of the climbers' confession that he does not believe in God. (Heaven forbid moviegoers learn that there are atheists in the world!)