Based on a true story, North Face is a suspenseful adventure film about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. Set in 1936, as Nazi propaganda urges the nation's ... See full summary »
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Shay J. Katz
Based on a true story, North Face is a suspenseful adventure film about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. Set in 1936, as Nazi propaganda urges the nation's Alpinists to conquer the unclimbed north face of the Swiss massif - the Eiger - two reluctant German climbers begin their daring ascent. Written by
As Luise Fellner and her boss, Herr Arau, arrive at the Eiger, the local guides are standing in front of the hotel advertising their services to the tourists. One of the guides notices a pair of climbers in the crowd. "Look who's coming," he says, "Bartolo Sandri and Mario Menti." A fellow guide mutters: "Another couple of fools. Come in a train and leave in a coffin." These two Italian climbers fell to their deaths from the north face June 21, 1938. See more »
At the beginning of the film, when Luisa watches the news in the cinema theater, the voice-over gets the first-names of the alpinists who died on the Eiger wrong. It says Max Mehringer and Karl Sedlmayr, but it's the opposite: KARL Mehringer and MAX Sedlmayr. This may have been intended to show the unreliability of the report. See more »
[in German, quoting English subtitles]
When you're at the bottom - Toni once told me - at the foot of the wall, and you look up, you ask yourself: How can anyone climb that? Why would anyone even want to? But hours later when you're at the top looking down, you've forgotten everything. Except the one person you promised you would come back to.
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In 1936, Nazi Germany was eager to propagandize the race for "the last remaining problem in the Alps," scaling the face of the treacherous Eiger. Enter into the race dutiful Germans Toni (Benno Furmann) and Andi (Florian Lukas); the race is on with two Austrians as competitors in a climbing romance called North Face. Touching the Void (2004) was more harrowing and less boy-girl romantic, but this emphasis on non-climbing romance I can love or hate depending on how demanding I am at the moment about the purity of the climb.
The political subtext is apparentas Germany is about to annex Austria and the Olympics are imminent, a win on the Eiger would be good for the Nazis. Much as this is a suspenseful adventure of love for climbing, based on a true story, it is also a love story, connecting climber Toni and Luise (Johanna Wolkolek), a photographer and childhood friend of both mountaineers. It is she who watches the adventurers throughout the suspenseful climb and return, kissing Toni only once.
That minimalism pervades the film as no kiss goes any further and no rappel is overly dramatizedthey are what they are set against the majestic Alps and the cruel Swiss massif. (That the Eiger "ogre" waits to devour anyone who tries the North Face may be fanciful; nonetheless what happens to the best of climbers would give even the sternest skeptic reason to pause about that legend). The editing is first-rate: Never for a moment did I think it is a movie made not on location and with actors because the shots are believable and wild.
Parallel cutting to the comfortable lodge with waiting reporters, dignitaries, and telescope gawkers serves as a convenient counterpoint to the harrowing climb. At times, I wanted to throttle the insouciant ones who seemed oblivious to the life and death struggle on the mountain.
The most beautiful day I ever spent hiking was down the Jungfrau with the Eiger seemingly all around. My Facebook portrait is of me standing at a crest with that most dangerous Alpine rock face as background. I loved that day, that mountain, and this film.
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