Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Nordwand

Spoilers! By the Way!!

Northface, is the story (based in truth) of a ill-fated attempt to climb the North face of the Eiger in 1936 by two German climbers Toni Kurz (Benno Fürmann) and Andreas Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas). They are followed up, hindered by and then perish along with two Austrian climbers. The story is also told through the eyes of Luise Fellner (Johanna Wokalek), a photographer for a Berlin newspaper (Morgenpost?) who travels to the Swiss town at the base of the Eiger along with her boss Henry (played by the excellent but slimy Ulrich Tukur).

Luise is an old friend of Toni and Andreas, and so is far more emotionally connected with the events than Henry who is just there for the story. He only cares if there is a heroic victory for Germany "Conquering the final problem of the Alps" or a tragic accident. As she has a mountaineering background, Luise even ventures out on the mountain herself to try and make contact with Toni and Andreas as they are stuck on the mountainside. She eventually stays out all night to keep Toni company, as by this point he is the only survivor. The next morning a rescue team arrive with a rope that is too short, so there is the tragic final scene with Toni hanging in mid air, tantalisingly close, but exhaling his last breath.

I have seen this before, but had forgotten that all four of the climbers died. The film is great. The characters are all developed well, with enough backstory to explain their actions (of course it helps that the characters are based in reality), but doesn't feel thrown it for the sake of it. The dynamic between Luise and Henry works really well; Henry's story arc from father-figure to Luise; to impatient patronising boss; to an un-caring colleague that Luise wants nothing to do with is very believable.

The action on the mountain is all very well done, edge of the seat stuff that makes you cringe when they are so cold their fingers and faces are black with frostbite; and can only imagine how it must feel not to be able to use your fingers at all when your life depends on it. It is in fact very reminiscent of Touching the Void. The final climbing scene with the death of Toni is heartbreaking (Luise has always fancied Toni), he tries one last effort to get off the mountain, but it is so cold his clothes are creaking with frost, and his frostbitten fingers can't cope with the knot in the rope caused by the rope being too short (some rescue!).

I do think this is a great film. Great characters; great action; brilliant the way the freezing action on the mountain is contrasted with the decadence of the press etc in the hotel at the bottom of the mountain, and the kind of film that completely absorbs the viewer, and sticks with you for a while afterwards.

On the Face of The Ogre.