Fact-inspired historical about scaling the unconquered North Face of the Eiger may prove too romanticized for hardcore climbers, but so exceptionally well-made most won’t care.* Set in 1936, shortly before the Nazi Olympiad, the proposed ascent was sold to the German public as another chance for Aryan manhood to triumph over all international challengers, though ironically only Austrian & German pairs took up the dare. Director Philipp Stölzl keeps a close focus during the big climb, letting the dangers speak for themselves rather than pumping up the hazards & glory in Wagnerian terms. (Though not without a bracing soundtrack from Christian Kolonovitis that leans less toward Straussian Alpine Symphony than echo of Bruckner 4.) Stölzl is even better in the more contemplative first half, pacing & editing in a classic, confident (slightly unfashionable) tradition. Occasionally, he can be too obvious, parallel cutting between rough mountain conditions and luxury first-class service for spectators & reporters, but most political reverberations get a more nuancéd treatment. In a fine cast, Benno Fürmann’s brawny, thoughtful German climber stands out, blessed with one of those Viggo Mortensen/Javier Bardem craggy, handsome, light catching faces. Though he’s actually a couple of decades too old for his real-life character.
LINK/DOUBLE-BILL: *For a straighter look at the climb, here’s a link to THE BECKONING SILENCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_n_5fUBD6c