Wandering Thoughts

August 4, 2009

North Face: Good, Bad and Ugly

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 8:21 pm
Tags: ,

The rock face was sheer and unforgiving. Even in summer the bits that weren’t vertical were dusted with snow. I stared intently, trying to stifle vertigo, swallowed by the drop, by the yawning space below. One wrong move, one misplaced footstep, one frayed rope – and doom. I squirmed on my uncomfortable perch.

Now was not the time to freak out. Most definitely not. The cinema was packed. Half of them rock climbers for sure. What would they make of some balding chubby guy hobbling out at top speed, wailing, sloshing cola.

I practiced a technique I’d used successfully in horror movies.

Don’t worry Terence they’re just actors. Just actors, just actors.

That worked for a bit, right up to the rock fall.

And that was the good. To my non-climber eyes, the climbing scenes in North Face were astounding, compelling, authentic, frighteningly real.

On the other hand, the the bad and the ugly were both to be found where the movie deviated from reality, from what really happened in Kurz/Hinterstrosser/Angerer/Rainer expedition.

The ugly is the portrayal of the two Austrians (Angerer and Rainer), they’re arrogant, freeload off the Germans and ultimately contribute to their demise. They’re also the avid Nazis in the group. Which is all kind of ironic: German movies these days have to be anti-Nazi but, apparently, non-Nazi German nationalism is just fine. And if by a sleight of hand you can blend your anti-Nazism and nationalism in a manner in which foreigners become the Nazis and Germans the anti-Nazis, well that’s even better…hhmmmm.

And the bad is the hokey romantic half story which is tacked onto the climb. The heroine who spends a night on the face, communicating with her almost lover as he slowly expires. But who also salvages from the tragedy the courage to follow her own dreams and live her own life in a meaningful manner. Blah. I can understand why the authors of the movie wanted an ending that salvaged something from Kurz’s death. Plenty of people die rock climbing, but that’s not the story. The story is how they live. The places they go and the beauty, purpose and fulfillment that comes with getting there. If I were making a movie about climbing I wouldn’t want to end with the grim death of a man trapped on a rope, either. But nor would I want to duck my way out of a bind by inventing an improbable cliff climbing heroine who’s future redeems the expedition’s grisly end. Personally, and I’m no movie maker, so maybe this would suck just as bad, I’d end my movie by going back in time, leaving Toni Kurz atop one of the summits he did scale, alive and revelling in it, in a place most of us will never go. If he died on a rock face, he lived on them too. And that’s happy enough in it’s way.


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