Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Beckoning Silence

The Beckoning Silence is based on Joe Simpson’s book of the same name. It is shot as a documentary including interviews with Joe, as he talks about his influences and what made him start climbing. His main influence is the tragic and compelling story of Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser as they tried to be the first people to successfully scale the North Face of the Eiger (their story is brilliantly told in the film Nordwand). The Beckoning Silence features four climbers acting out the drama of Toni, Andreas and the two Austrian climbers also involved; this is interspersed with Joe climbing on the Eiger at some of the crucial points of the fateful climb in 1936.

The film is very well made; there are some stunning shots of the Swiss Alps, and it is quite authentic as director Louise Osmond shot as much as possible on the Eiger. Joe is as engaging in front of the camera as he is when he writes. Understandably the focus of the film is the story of Toni Kurz et al, whereas the book is far more about Joe’s thoughts on climbing: he talks about how he has lost some of the drive to carry on climbing now that many of his friends have died pursuing the same goals that he once did. This still does come across in the film, just to a lesser extent.

It would be interesting to know what Joe thought of the film Nordwand, because The Beckoning Silence actually came out the year before. This is a great, short film (only 75 min) telling a truly tragic tale. Made even more tragic as Toni died on his fifth day on the mountain; and this guy climbed it in just under 2 hours 50 min!

And this record has just been broken by 20 min!!!