Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Movie Review: North Face (Nordwand)

Back in the early 1930s, the North Face of the Eiger was considered "the last great problem of the Alps". The Nazi government was desperate for a German climbing team to be the first to conquer this daunting climb, especially with the world's eyes on them for the Olympics.

North Face is based on the true story of a pair of German climbers, Toni Kurtz and Andreas Hinterstoisser, who were among several teams of climbers vying for a place in history.

After perhaps a bit too much lead up, the film follows Kurtz and Hinterstoisser, and an Austrian pair hot on their heels, as they head for the summit. From the luxury hotel facing the famous mountain, German press and curious tourists watch through telescopes and binoculars. Then the accidents and injuries begin, and the weather changes for the worse.

While the screenwriter has added a love interest to the story that likely never existed, the rest is quite believable. The scenes of the climbers struggling in a blinding blizzard make you feel the cold through your bones. You are kept on the edge of your seat as the drama unfolds, hoping against hope for a happy ending.

If you aren't familiar with the story, I won't ruin it for you. Let's just say there's a good reason that Hollywood has never taken up this particular story on the big screen. It took a German director to tell this very German story with the honesty it deserves.

North Face (or Nordwand in the original German) is doing the art house circuit - and can already be found on DVD in some countries. If you like mountaineering dramas like Alive or Touching the Void, this is worth a watch.


Londonbackpacker said...

Joe Simpson covers the story in his book 'the beckoning silence' and also the film of the same name

JOE TODD said...

Will check it out Thanks

Mike said...

Thanks for the tip. I went to see it this afternoon and found it really worthwhile.

Some of the story (which I don't know well) must have been creative given the circumstances, but I guess now I want to learn more about the actual events. Either way, the cinematography was brilliant and absolutely reminded me why I've never wanted to go anywhere near that kind of climbing.

Maple Kiwi said...

I saw Joe Simpson's film, but it seemed like he didn't quite do what he set out to do. Although fictionalised, I thought Nordwand did a better job of bringing the story to life.

North Back Packs said...

This is a really great story. thanks for the review... I'll have to watch it.

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