Monday, July 19, 2010

"North Face" (Language - German) (2008) - Movie Review

There is a decision of death of a fellow climber or destination to that tempting summit in “North Face”. Every one knows the answer but only one says it aloud. That is Toni Kurz (Benno Furman), one of four climbers of Eiger mountain’s north face. His climbing partner and friend Andreas Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas) looks at him with a relief and anger for the truth told at that moment. The other two climbers are competition Austrian team Willy Angerer (Simon Schwarz) and Edi Rainer (Georg Friedrich). Willy is haunted and drugged by the vigour to get to the summit that halfway when he is badly hurt and Edi suggests to go down, he threatens to kill him. When another terrible incident hurts Willy worse than the head injury, these two teams has to work together in descending. That is only the beginning of the terror in this film based on a true story, “North Face”.

In 1936 Austria is on the verge of eventual annexation with German Nazi’s while Andi and Toni are more interested in climbing mountains. Andi is the older of the two and wise in the looks and actions. Two climbers already died in the attempt of Eiger and now the newspaper needs a story to detail the conquest by either a Germany team or an Austrian team supporting the Nazi annexation. Either of their win will be a triumph for the senior reporter Henry Arau (Ulrich Tukur). Arau got the office secretary Luise (Johanna Wokalek), the childhood friend of Andi and more than a friend for Toni on the story as a photographer. Luise and Toni have long gone in distance and waiting for that first move from either of those for a rekindling of their relationship. “North Face” is not about that of course.

Even before they set out for the venture of this dangerous feat, they camp at the foothills of the Eiger. Arau has brought Luise so that she can be his protege. Arau is a serious reporter hunting like a fox for a story. He is not cunning but has a blunt mind and unmerciful outlook on this situation. For him this is a story and it is purely a story. The outcome has to be either happy or tragic to provide a story. Not a friendly retreat. Luise likes him because he opens up the career and life she cannot pursue in the time and place of Germany. Add fancy parties, drinks and four star comfort, hard fought climbing ex-boyfriend moves away far long before guilt brings her back. Toni bids adieu submitting his mountain climbing journal to Luise. He and Andi takes an unconventional route only which the Austrian team dedicatedly follows.

“North Face” blasts the snow and the icy cold wind on to its viewer’s face. The snow flows like a waterfall and the climbers are shot with some long distance aerial shot. Their zest is uncompromising and deadly. The movie shows the Eiger on different situations that it changes its face. It is peaceful, serene, brutal, cold and cruel. Every time based on the climbers’ predicament and success we are scared and fascinated by this white giant. Nature is beautiful when you are at your comforts and is the worst villain when it shows its darkness.

Philipp Stozl, the director of this film knows that certain parts of this story has to be told faithfully. If he is going to tilt and swing the angle of emotions out here, it is a disgrace and plainly sinister to manipulate it. The hatable reporter speaks out some untimely truth with an inconsiderate mind. He knows that the media needs a very successful or a sob story. He knows that smelling a story is the greatest success for a reporter and he knows that being human should be selective to be inhumanly objective in the situations that beckons empathy. He is played with a pendulum mode by Ulrich Tukur. He is kind and encouraging to Luise and at the same time spits out the venom.

But the greatest achievement in acting comes from the four actors playing the climbers. As the main man Toni in the true tragic story, Benno Furmann plays him like a hero, wise man and mainly a tired and drained human being. He initially objects of going to Eiger knowing the considerable risks involved in it and says he climbs for himself. Most of the great artists do things for themselves. The best piece of their work comes from pure selfishness. Yet again Toni is an amicable and lovely man who understands his friend’s desire which translates into his own. He abides and sets forth. As the end nears and the audience expects, Luise’s love is intertwined but not as a director looking for solace. Her braveness is not in helping Toni by doing the unthinkable heroics but by dangerously being there. “North Face” is an exhilarating experience for the intimidating mountains and snowscapes and deadly abyss but it is more about the climbers, the people, the politics and the limits and endlessness of humans.

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