North Face Philipp Stolzl

North Face Philipp Stolzl
I have to admit that whenever I think of people looking at an unconquerable mountain with the desire to climb it and get their names in the history books my mind immediately goes to Arnie climbing up the water tower in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? It seems I'm not the only person to think this way, as North Face, which is based on the true story of German and Austrian teams competing to be the first up the un-climbable North Face of the Eiger in 1936, equates this foolhardy feat with Nazi oppression. As part of the propaganda machine for world domination, Nazi officials commissioned reluctant climbers to tackle the most daunting mountain in the Alps, making a spectacle of it, serving cake and champagne while men risked their lives in the harsh elements. While Andreas (Florian Lukas) was relatively keen on the notion of public accolades, Toni (Benno Furmann) climbs for himself, uninterested in a dangerous quest for the sake of fame. Their inevitable succumbing to expectations mirrors that of a young photojournalist named Luise (Johanna Wokalek), who essentially whores herself out to her boss for career advancement while covering the ascent. The didactic here is that of ego, power, compromise and the inevitable self-destruction that comes with it, with a glossy, intense mask of mountainside action and tension. Not a great deal of the storytelling mechanics are particularly fresh, with most of the film giving the standard, predictable spiel, but Rammstein video director Philipp Stolzl knows how to frame a shot and create genuine thrills when the situation warrants. Avalanches, falling rocks, errors in judgment, extreme weather and failing equipment are just a few of the plights that plague Toni and Andreas, making for an electric and almost unendurably jaw-clenching experience. And in this, North Face is easily the most active, visceral and damning Nazi parable to date. Alas, no supplements are included with the DVD to give us insight on the filming of the very realistic climbing. (Mongrel Media)