365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

2Aug/150

North Face (Nordwand) (2010)

If I could describe the Germany released movie North Face in just a single word, it would be horrific. Based upon the true story about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face of the Swiss Alps, the subtitled movie gets better and better with each passing frame. For those moviegoers who aren't into subtitled movies, I can sympathize. I tend to groan when I know I'm about to embark on one of those too. Subtitled movies are ones that you need to prepare for and, unfortunately, when a subtitled movie is bad, it almost becomes twice a dreadful to trudge through. But, at the same time, I have seen some absolutely fantastic foreign-language movies and North Face ranks right up there with them. And, as with any good subtitled movies, when you are truly engaged, you don't even notice you are reading the words anymore. I'm not sure how I came across this movie, other than the fact that I love a good adventure movie (I am one of those people that tends to separate the adventure genre from the action genre).

The movie is set in 1936. Teams of two compete to get to the summit of the mountain while onlookers from below watch with great interest with binoculars from a cabin below. It was just before the start of World War II and Germany was intent on showing its prowess. Germany was set to host the Winter Olympics just months later and the Nazi propaganda machine was ready to work. Named the Eiger, the Swiss sierra had never been conquered. Urged to compete were the best alpinists from each nation. Two advanced, German climbers named Toni Kurz (Benno Fürmann - Jerichow, In Darkness) and Andi Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas - The Grand Budapest Hotel, When We Leave) reluctantly enter the competition. They seem more award about the potential risks associated with the event than some of the other competitors who are unable properly weigh risk vs reward. Toni, the better climber, is also the more hesitant of the two. The Murder Wall, as it has been often called, had never been conquered and Toni doesn't think racing to get up is the best thing to do. As he is training, he runs into Luise (Johanna Wokalek - Barefoot, Aimée & Jaguar), the early love of his life. She is a journalist and has come with her boss who is a loyal Nazi to report about the progress of the climbers. She is less of a journalist and more of a gopher girl and her boss Arau makes this known to everyone. Luise's presence may or may not have influenced Toni's decision to participate, but regardless, he decides to climb.

I'll leave the plot at that except to say that each pair of climbers featured in this movie (which is basically three pairs) experiences some serious hardship as they fight the elements of the mountain. In the first paragraph, I mentioned the word horrific and that's exactly what the second half of the movie is. The filming must have been insane because everything feels so incredibly real. Nothing is rushed. Each painstaking step, we feel. Each time we see a man shivering, we count our blessings for being in the comforts of our homes. The cinematography is absolutely fantastic. And as these men walk further and further up this growling mountain the refuses to let them conquer it, we uncomfortable shift on our couches. These men are going through complete hell and we are witnessing it all. The last 30-45 minutes are cannot miss movie-watching for adventure junkies. Your mouth will hang open as you await the fate of each man.

If you like adventure movies, Philipp Stölzl's North Face. It makes movies like Vertical Limit look like Sesame Street. Don't even worry about the fact that it's not in English. That is not important with this movie.

Plot 9.5/10
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 7.5/10
Acting 8.5/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 9/10
Universal Relevance 10/10
89.5%

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