Feature documentary about mountaineering icon Reinhold Messner and how he became what he is. This film is as much about his personality as it is about his extraordinary exploits - the psycho-gram of a controversial mountaineer.
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This is based on the true story of the 1953 Austro-German mountaineering expedition which had as its objective the conquering of one of the world's most dangerous peaks, Nanga Parbat (Naked Mountain) in Kashmir, and is told with precision as it happened, with the barest minimum of dialogue development required to indicate character conflict. Dr. Karl Herrligkoffer (James Hurdle) organizes this sortie into the Western Himalayas only with difficulty attracting well-known and experienced climbers, due to his method of organization being very autocratic, but does eventually garner the services of Peter Aschenbrenner (Ken Pogue), veteran of an ill-fated 1934 junket, and the great Alpine master Hermann Buhl (Bruce Greenwood). A large number (31) of Germans and their porters have died on Nanga Parbat before this effort is mustered and even Everest is scaled before it, by Sir Edmund Hillary and companions during the same year, and Herrligkoffer's operation is planned as a memorial to his stepbrother, Willy Merkl, one of those who perished in 1934. Buhl, a great climber with obsessive dedication to his goals, is correctly portrayed here as one who takes immense risks which enable him to succeed where others can not, and although his experience is primarily in Europe, Greenwood's voiceover of Buhl's diary written to his wife, during the films's early segments, perfectly matches what is known of his temperament. Director Donald Shebib wrote the screenplay for this Canadian production, and must be praised for being faithful to the original sequence of events, and for his supervision of superb sound technicians, which latter properly make us aware that what we hear in this work is often the cardinal adversary of the indefatigable Buhl. Greenwood and the remainder of the all male cast avoid overplaying their roles, simply letting the drama inherent in this primal struggle of man versus nature and himself take its normal course and although the events displayed in this feature occurred many years ago, a timeless quality is pervasive, again largely attributable to the skillful direction of Shebib, largely utilizing Buhl's written document, Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage.
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