Movie: North Face
It’s only when you watch a movie like NORTH FACE that you realise how artificial mainstream movies are. I don’t mean to suggest that mainstream movies can’t be entertaining, gripping, moving or even awesome. They can, and often are. But when you step away from the comfort of the highly polished Hollywood fare that you realise that there is something missing from those movies.
Now, the more cynical of you probably had the word ‘soul’ stroll through your mind just now. But I don’t think I’d go that far, nor will I attempt to define what it is that I think is missing from mainstream movies. I will however say that it has been a very long time since I’ve be so drawn in by a film that I’ve almost forgotten that I was watching one.
In 1936 the Nazi propaganda machine sees an opportunity to snatch up a symbol of Germany’s athletic superiority in the lead up to the Berlin Olympics. That symbol is the Alps, more specifically the yet to be conquered North face of a peak called the Eiger. Toni Kurz (Benno Fürmann) and Andi Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas) are two german climbers from Berchtesgaden who take on the challenge, however they have little interest in the politics of the adventure. It is Andi, the more impetuous of the pair, who convinces Toni to make an attempt at the summit. Almost as soon as they begin their attempt things go wrong.
The movie also follows the story of Luise Fellner (Johanna Wokalek), a childhood friend of Kurz and Hinterstoisser, who is sent [initially] back to Berchtesgaden by the newspaper for which she now works. When she arrives it is clear that there is some intimate history between her and Kurz, but when he discovers that she has been sent to cover the story of their attempt at the north face of Eiger, Kurz informs her that they would make no such attempt.
Armed with this information Luise is surprised when she, and her smarmy reporter/boss, Henry Arau (Ulrich Tukur), arrive at the foot of the Eiger to cover the attempts by other climbers and find Toni and Andi established in the base camp.
There’s a wonderful, but heart breaking, disconnect between the events that happen on the North Face of the Eiger and the pompous aloofness with which the majority of the upperclass types look on at the peril faced by the climbers from a 4 star hotel at the foot of the mountain. The close proximity, but the detachment of the onlookers only seems to increase the sense of isolation faced by the climbers.
This movie isn’t perfect. There is some extremely clunky dialogue (All of which is in German) and some of the plot, while based on actual events, has more than a couple of moments that feel far too staged. A few of the peripheral characters come off as a little bit too cartoony also, particularly Luise’s boss and Willy Angerer (Simon Schwarz) and Edi Rainer (Georg Friedrich), the Austrian climbers who attempt the assent with the Germans. But while it is flawed, it looks amazing and it’s extremely engaging. So much so that I caught myself rubbing my hands together and even breathing into them in an effort to stave off the agonising temperatures faced by the movies protagonists. [source]