In 1985 Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, a pair of young climbers, went to Peru to climb an unscaled face of a 21,000 ft Andean mountain, Siula Grande.
The journey went horribly wrong on the descent, with the pair getting separated and Joe Simpson being left, quite probably dead. Now obviously he wasn’t because he later wrote his bestselling book, Touching the Void, and he’s the first narrator we see in the film.
I can’t remember exactly when I first read the book. But this slim volume, recommended somewhere on the web I expect, was a revolation, and I’ve since read all Simpson’s other work.
Which brings us to this film. It’s made by Kevin McDonald as is a dramatised documentary – in a form that we don’t usually get to see, and certainly not on the big screen. McDonald previously made the excellent Oscar winning documentary One Day in September, and again he tells a thrilling story simply and ably. The only voices you hear are those of Joe, Simon and a non-climbing traveller they met and who looked after their camp. Alongside these are dramatised clips of the journey.
The dramatisation is impressive and the grandeur just has to be seen on the big screen. I must admit that I’m always thoroughly impressed by the methodology that must be employed in making a film like this (something for the DVD I guess). We’re told at the end of the film that no-one has ever repeated their feat of scaling that face of the mountain, yet it seems some climbers did do quite a lot of it from the images we see. Of course there are plenty of tricks of the trade to use, and the credits reveal that portions of the film were shot in the Alps, but I didn’t see any sign of special effects teams working on the film.
I’m glad this is getting a decent release, and hopefully a good number of people will see it.