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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Other comments nicely point out the excellence of this film's mountain photography. That's why you should go watch it. Yet, before viewing it, i feared the plot and the film's perspective on humankind might be quite annoying. Gladly, this is not so.
Leni Riefenstahl has a rather doubtful reputation for acting Nazi propaganda films - but this film is quite free from patriotic or chauvinist sub tones. In fact, it is pleasing even from a modern feminist perspective, actively avoiding and rebuking gender clichés, which is quite astonishing in a piece of art dating from pre-WW2 times.
Many ancient mountain films, in particular German ones, praise heroic fight. On first sight, some people claim this one does so, too. On closer inspection, i don't think so any more. Granted, Dr. Krafft does act heroically - but it's completely obvious less obsession and more prudence from his part would have served everyone much better. Hans wants to be a hero - but for that very reason is proved the greatest fool. Maria, the least heroic of all the party and the most sensible, clearly leaves the best impression in the end. A film can hardly promote heroism by showing off its dumbness...
The film has its weak points, but naming these rather shows how good it actually is: The film's location is the Piz Palu north face. Yet, many scenes have been taken in the Piz Morteratsch south east face. So far, no problem - a north face has bad sunlight, but the film dwells on light. On top of that, turning a film in the Palu north face would have been suicidal. That ice wall is indeed extremely dangerous and quite famous for its icy avalanches. Yet, the faking of the location could have been better concealed in many scenes. Viewing a panorama in the background that simply cannot be seen from the location the foreground is meant to represent IS disturbing if you know the whereabouts. A few glitches are even worse: For probably technical reasons, when searching for climbers in the steep Palu north face, the film actually shows scans of a flat glacier basin (the Vadret Pers glacier tongue, as far as i remember). This gross inconsistency will annoy you even if you do not personally know the Bernina mountains.
The weakest point of the film are the subtitles. Clearly, they are meant to help understanding of the plot - remember this is a mute movie. A few of them are certainly required, but they are simply far too numerous, and many just rehash what is obvious from the fine pictures, anyway.
But hey, superfluous subtitles and faked locations - we ought to be glad not to find more serious defects to complain about...
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