I’ll Read These Books ‘Cuz the Movies Were Great!

Okay, I think I’m a tad behind everyone else here, but I recently watched two films that blew me away, and now I want to read the books they were based on. The first film, Touching the Void, was so good, I did something I never do–I watched the special features about how the movie was made. And I loved that part, too!

Quick plot summary: It’s 1985 and two climbing partners, both from England, head out to the Peruvian Andes to climb the 20,813 foot Siula Grande. As yet, no one has been able to do this, but that doesn’t stop Simon and Joe.

The film alternates between Simon and Joe facing the camera, telling their story, and movie actors reenacting the expedition. It sounds sort of cheesy, but it works–I got so sucked in, even though I knew I was watching actors, my heart was racing as I worried for them!

I’m not giving anything away–you must know that the climb goes wrong, because there wouldn’t be a film about it otherwise, right? So, anyway, the two climbers make it to the summit. It’s quite dramatic along the way, and we cheer for them at the top. However–did you know that 80% of mountain accidents happen on the descent? I didn’t know that, but Simon and Joe do–and they realize that their job is not even close to being over.

So, down they climb.

And things are going quite well. Until Joe breaks his leg–badly. At this point, Simon could ditch Joe, but he doesn’t; instead he engineers some sort of knot and pulley system that will allow him to lower the two of them down the mountain. A brief side note here: never, ever underestimate the importance of knowing how to tie knots. I wish I had been a boy scout. Or a sailor. (I was a girl scout for a short while, and I did earn a cooking badge. No jokes, those of you who have experienced my cuisine.)

Back to the story: things are going quite well. Simon lowers Joe down via the rope, waits for his signal–a tug from Joe–and then Simon can rework the pulley system and lower himself. The system is working until, all of a sudden, things go disastrously wrong.

Joe goes flying over a precipice and is literally dangling in mid-air.

Simon, waiting well up the mountain for his signal, has no idea why Joe is not tugging. As he begins to fear the worst, Simon waits and waits. He is seated precariously on a slope, holding onto the rope, and he sees a storm blowing in. Eventually it is clear: either Simon has to cut the rope, sending Joe to a certain death, or he–Simon–will be pulled off his perch and the two of them will die.

Well, what would you do?

Simon cuts the rope, Joe plunges, and then the story really gets good. Because Joe doesn’t die. And what he goes through, what he survives, what he does in his situation, is beyond astonishing. From a psychological viewpoint, I found it fascinating to listen to him speak about being so close to death–almost going through it as it were–and then finding life on the other side.

What or who do you turn to when faced with almost certain death? God? Your wits? Fate? And can there ever be something good to come out of such a harrowing experience? These and other questions are answered by Joe, but I wonder, how different would the answers be coming from someone else? How different would my own answers be? I don’t want to know!

What Simon goes through is a whole other story. I’m telling you–if the book is even half as good as the film, it would be fantastic for a book group!

Okay, moving on: the next film is Revolutionary Road. First of all, can I ask, is there anything that Kate Winslet cannot do? She is extraordinary! I was reading a lot and not going to the movies the year she was nominated for two Oscars, one for The Reader and one for Revolutionary Road. It took me awhile to rent the dvd’s and I must say, I really disliked The Reader.

However, I loved Revolutionary Road. Quick plot summary (really, this time I will be quick): a married couple in the 1950’s thinks they are special. They have an idea of an ideal life, one that doesn’t contain middle-management jobs, mortgages, and children. In other words, one that isn’t exactly like the life they are living.

So they decide to throw it all in and move to Paris. The passion that Kate Winslet’s character displays drives them, but will it be able to surmount all the obstacles, both societal and personal, that are thrown in their way?

Again, from a psychological viewpoint, this portrait of a 1950’s marriage is riveting, and its insight into human nature and human needs grabs one by the throat with its bold truth.

I loved this movie, and cannot wait to get my hands on the book. What about YOU? Have you read either of these books? Are they as good as the films?

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