Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

Touching the Void 2003

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

USA In English
106 minutes 35mm



Based on the book by Joe Simpson


Mike Eley


Justine Wright


Alex Heffes


Joe Simpson
Simon Yates
Richard Hawking


Toronto, London 2003


Bafta Winner Best British Film 2004


One of the year’s most spectacular and suspenseful films is also the year’s most astounding documentary. “‘A very challenging day out’ is how phlegmatic British climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates perceived their 1985 bid to climb 21,000-foot-high Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Getting to the top was no problem, but getting off the mountain was another matter. Halfway down, Simpson fell, atomized his left leg and had to be lowered by Yates on a 300-foot rope. Unbeknownst to a blizzard-blinded Yates, Simpson ended up dangling over a sheer precipice with no way to climb back up. Unable to hold on, Yates was forced into the climber’s worst existential dilemma: to cut or not to cut the rope; to save himself or not to save himself, by letting his friend die. He cut it. Kevin Macdonald’s Touching the Void is a hugely stirring, appropriately vertiginous hybrid of documentary and docudrama footage based on Simpson’s book, a key work in the literature of extremity, mixing the participants’ accounts with frostbitten, snow-lashed re-creations of their ordeal… Breathtaking stuff…” — John Patterson, LA Weekly  

“A straightforward, bone-chilling, admirably precise visualization of Simpson’s extraordinary escape from an icy death, filmed both on the mountain where it happened and in the Swiss Alps. There’s not an ounce of false piety or histrionics in Simpson’s existential account of his will to live… By the end of this white-knuckle movie, you stand in awe at the depth of man’s will to survive.” — David Ansen, Newsweek