Saturday, March 20, 2010

North Face: Nazis and Climbing

(Spoilers, probably, but not really.) And, that's me, clearly not climbing the North Face, but climbing right here in Arizona, getting 'beta' from Donna, my climbing mentor. I'm stuck!

You have to love the Loft Cinema that shows movies like North Face, a film about friendship and climbing the Eiger set in the midst of Nazi Germany. The Loft is also where I saw Touching the Void, another film about climbing and friends, and hard choices. These are two films that get climbing right. But it isn't just the climbing, it's the relationship between the climbing partners; that and pure raw survival instinct that forms the true heart of each movie.

North Face, based on a true story, deftly illustrates choice, and how choices have consequences, and how each choice builds on the choices made before. At any point along the way, a different choice might have resulted in a different outcome. And, were the Eiger less forbidding, and Nature more accommodating, maybe there might have been a different outcome.

Although I have done a little climbing, I'm a rank neophyte, dependent on the expertise of my climbing mentor, Donna. Before each climbing adventure, she drills me on my knots, checks all of her equipment, and then checks the equipment again. Rope is checked, checked again, and carefully coiled in a manner designed for ease of release during the climb. It's a process that requires focus and precise attention to detail.

When we meet Toni and Andi, we quickly realize their first love is climbing. We see how Toni is meticulous with his gear and is the most responsible, the most cautious of the two friends. Andi is adventurous, the one who can swing his way around a cliff traverse to set the piton into the rock for others to follow. The film also shows them as not very good Nazis, which helps us to empathize with them as human beings.

In fact, with the exception of the newspaper editor jonesing for the story of the conquering of the Eiger by Germans, most of the characters are quite sympathetic. And, as the climb ensues and the team encounters difficulty after difficulty, and makes choice after choice, you get closer and closer to them. When the consequences of their actions begin to manifest, ah, you want so badly for them to not only survive, but accomplish their goal.

It's a gripping story, one that hangs with you for some time. If you've missed it, put it in your queue.

More on the filming of North Face.

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