Kevin Macdonald on filming Touching the Void | Film | The Guardian
Touching the Void tells the powerful story of two climbers – Joe Simpson and . of the text, Joe describes each of the previous summit attempts and the problems . Character Extension Task - Keeping Track: Joe and Simon's Relationship. Simon would have to be lying too and they don't even like each other. The DVD Touching the Void has footage of the climbers returning to. "We climb because it's fun," says Joe Simpson near the start of Touching the Void . And what takes place in Touching the Void, based on a book by Simpson, in the Peruvian Andes, with his climbing partner, Simon Yates. had trouble interviewing them - Touching the Void remains totally riveting.
We were also interested to capture how they would react to returning to Siula Grande, given the associations it had for them. Yates was absolutely level-headed about it.
He had already been back to the area a few years previously, and insisted that this trip meant little or nothing to him psychologically.
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Having seen how he reacted to the story in interview, however, I wasn't sure I believed him. Superficially, Simpson was much less confident about returning.
It was obvious from the moment we met him at the airport for the flight to Lima that he was genuinely nervous. He was wearing a T-shirt which read "The last one dead's a cissy", and swallowing beer after beer.
As our plane approached Lima, an extraordinary thing happened: The sight filled us all with awe - all except Simpson, who merely said: I had sometimes wondered if Simpson had exaggerated his ordeal. The diary - in which the whole story unfolds in its raw, unfiltered state - confirmed that every aspect of it was true. I was struck, however, by a couple of things. In the diary, Simpson and Yates come across not as the gnarly, hardened professionals of the book, but as young men sometimes out of their depth and often scared out of their wits.
It's exactly what you'd expect, of course - and made me understand them so much better. Another revelation made me laugh out loud: It ends with a very funny, honest account of a misjudged and unsuccessful sexual approach to them.Touching the Void: The Untold Story Joe Simpson and Simon Yates
From Lima we travelled for 12 hours by bus to the town at the end of the road: Cajatambo, high in the foothills of the Andes, where we spent three days acclimatising. Simpson told me that the nearer we got to Siula Grande the more he began to be overwhelmed with an irrational notion. His life, he said, had been blessed ever since he'd left Siula Grande; he'd made a name for himself as a writer and found happiness in his personal life, but now, coming back here, he was filled with an overwhelming dread that maybe, with the circle complete, his good fortune would disappear.
The next day all our gear - cameras, clothes, costumes, food for a month - was divided into 20kg loads to be carried by 70 donkeys up to the base camp.
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The only thing that couldn't be broken down into a donkey load was the electric generator. Instead, four short, wiry men - two of whom appeared to be the wrong side of 50 - set off carrying it suspended between wooden poles. Over the next few days I wheezed and huffed and puffed my way slowly along the mountain paths.
Every time I felt sorry for myself - carrying a little day-pack filled with water and a spare jumper or two - I'd think about the poor men carrying that generator. By the time we had reached the base camp, at around 16,ft, I was wondering what had possessed me to think I could make this film. Yes, I had rather half-heartedly joined a gym to get fit before coming, but I hadn't been more than a few times.
And I was really suffering now. But this was soon the least of the problems, as my relationship with Simpson and Yates began slowly to unravel. Our base camp was a minute walk from the one Simpson and Yates had chosen back in On the first night there we took a walk up to have a look at the site.
I'll never forget the look on Simpson's face when he saw the spot where Yates had discovered him on that dark, snowy night in It was as though he had seen his own ghost. From that moment on Simpson was clearly caught in his own private nightmare, experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks. To make matters worse - much worse - I was asking him to relive scenes from his ordeal for my reconstructions. Great professional that he is, he kept going - doing what I asked him.
But he became more and more irritated by the slow, laborious process of filming. He couldn't understand why I didn't want to see his face in the shots - it was "his story", after all - no matter how many times I told him that, bizarre as it seemed, he was only playing a double in the film.
Things got really bad when we made the long, hard hike up the glacier to our top camp, at around 18,ft. Simpson and Yates became concerned that I was risking our climbers' lives by asking them to go even part way up the precipitous face of Siula Grande.
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The tension grew with the increasing altitude and exhaustion and suddenly I found that Yates - who had so often assured us that the return meant little or nothing to him psychologically - began to behave in an irrational way. One afternoon he became really aggressive and threatening.
Simpson fell to what seemed certain death but, four days later, Lazarus-like, clawed his way back to base camp. His unsparing account, Touching the Void, was written largely to counter the misplaced criticism of Yates. It changed both them and mountaineering literature for good. The gripping fable became a double-edged sword, Simpson says.
The bad side was that Simon and I are almost locked in the past.
Simon is always the guy who cut the rope and I am always the bloke who crawled home. Everybody misses that crucial point. He took a very pragmatic decision.
The man who fell to earth
Then, not having died, initially he beat himself up about it. He has a favourite Tibetan saying, ge garne. You just get on.
Yates slightly less so. He is speaking direct to camera, trying to explain the thrill of mountaineering, and it's all he is able to come up with. He sees the sport as a combination of ballet and gymnastics, pointing to the discipline and athleticism required to do it successfully. He also proposes that it's his way of escaping "the clutter of our world". But to describe it simply as "fun" understates the hold it has on those who risk their lives to scale the heights.
And what takes place in Touching the Void, based on a book by Simpson, can hardly be described as "fun".
The early sequences show his successful ascent of the snow-covered Siula Grande mountain, in the Peruvian Andes, with his climbing partner, Simon Yates. The rest of the film deals with the disasters that befell them on the way down: