North Face [Blu-ray]
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Critic's Pick! A transfixing life-and-death adventure tale. --The New York Times
4 Stars! One of the best mountain climbing movies ever made --Seattle Times
Top Customer Reviews
I also have a new fear of being stranded on the side of a sheer cliff called "The Murder Wall" during a blizzard. This unexpected thriller, based on a true story, held me spellbound for it's just over two hour running time. I can't recall a more harrowing mountain adventure.
This riveting recreation is set in 1936, a short time before the famed (and notorious) Berlin Olympics which Hitler hoped to use as propaganda to tout the superiority of all things Nazi and Aryan. The worldwide news of Germans conquering this impossible, peak was a hoped-for event before the Olympics and something encouraged by the German press. Here two Germans -- Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser -- confront "the last problem of the Alps": the Eiger's unclimbed North Face. They are closely followed up "The Murder Wall" by a competing Austrian team. But things go terribly wrong. The crowds and the press watch the ensuing, heart-stopping drama through telescopes from the inn and chalets below.
A terrible point of no return is reached. Under unimaginable conditions, the men fight for survival, trying to do what's right when everything's gone wrong. This extraordinary drama does not relent. It held me in a freezing visceral grip. I was on the mountain with these men and never once felt that it was anything less than real. If you have a need to climb the Eiger, please make note of the Hinterstoisser Traverse. Director Philipp Stoelzl superbly captures the dangers, the daring and the tragedy.
It's a pleasure to watch a film that covers all the dramatic bases well. Nordwand starts pleasantly, introducing the characters one by one with subtle details that say volumes but with little effort. We get to know the people, and then the adventure begins. I could really feel for these guys, and for once the love story didn't seem tacked on; it plays out like an integral part of the movie.
In fact, the best performance here might be from Johana Wokalek, excellent as the young photographer---you can believe the love she portrays. But everyone is solid, and my only qualm might be that the last 30 minutes stretch a little too long, with too many tense close-ups etc. Still, the tension is real and I felt like I was there; the music is perfect, the sound of the snow and wind quite visceral, and I felt cold while watching this on a hot Texas night. That's good filmmaking.
It helped a lot that I didn't know the story ahead of time; if you also don't, just watch the film before learning more. I was suitably surprised by what happens and never felt manipulated as in many films of this type. The climbing scenes are magnificent, perhaps the best I've ever seen, and you come away with huge respect for these early climbers and what they did with such basic equipment.
All in all, a gripping adventure recommended to fans of mountains, man vs. nature adventures, and even those who enjoy a low-key love story.
One quibble: I speak German and the subtitles are miles off in many parts, not even beginning to convey the subtlety of what these characters are saying at points. Imagine hearing "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," while reading, "It doesn't matter." If you're going to spend this much on a movie, make the subtitles perfect! Bitte...
And that is precisely why I'd love to sock them with only one star: the story itself is so incredible that it did not need falsifying or romancing. Can we truly not watch an adventure movie without a ridiculous and superfluous romance? And was the actual climb not gripping enough without false additions? The "competitors" were a 4-man team from the start; no living person cut himself off the rope (it was cut the next day, when the men who fell were beyond rescue and no longer responsive); no woman had to galvanize reluctant rescuers, they responded as a matter of course; and on.
If the filmmaker wants to include a fictional story, then the people portrayed should be fictional, as in Titanic. To use a real story, with real, legendary people, and then to falsify it -- that verges on obscene. If you would like to know how events actually unfolded, I highly recommend the British production "The Beckoning Silence" based on the book of the same name by Joe Simpson ("Touching the Void"). Right now, it is available only in European format DVD. In it, Simpson talks of how this climb inspired him, what the climbers did and how they must have felt, and mountaineering in general. It is accurate and incredibly compelling in its own right. And yet, the scenes recreating the climb, though nicely acted and extremely well filmed, fall just a little flat after watching "North Face". Oh, my kingdom for a hybrid of these two movies! That would be a 10-star!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The film is very good. Little to add to what has been said. But for me, there is an important aspect about this version of the film, which left me disappointed. I speak German. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by Henry D. Friedman
As they were hanging off the edge of the cliff, I was hanging off the edge of my couch. What marvelous filmmaking and gripping drama. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mark B. Peterson
This is a really gripping story (note, German language with English subtitles).Published 4 months ago by Voracious Reader
very well acted...I thought it caught the drama of the situation plus the time period superbly...one of those movies you will watch multiple times because it is excellentPublished 5 months ago by Chuck Burkholder