“North Face” (Nordwand) (2008)–The Ogre of the Alps
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 Germany urges the nation’s mountain climbers to conquer the unclimbed north face – the Eiger (“Ogre” in German) – two reluctant German climbers begin their daring ascent despite knowing their exploits will be used as propaganda. After being refused leave from the German army, they volunteer to make the climb, disinterested in Third Reich politics. (Nazi politics play only a historical role as the backdrop for the historic climb.)
The German climbers play into the Nazis’ superiority obsession as they face off against a rival Austrian duo in an attempt to be the first team to scale the infamous Eiger. Although the movie starts a little slowly in initiating the ascent of Eiger, it really picks up pace about one third the way in as the challenges of the climb become evident. The contrast between the plight of the mountain climbers and that of the rich bystanders who watch the life-threatening climb through telescopes while drinking champagne becomes increasingly emotionally riveting.
The two mountain climbers and female love interest are all solid actors, well directed, and well casted. The German director did a superb job capturing the climb. Everything was so convincingly shot, it makes you wonder if they actually filmed some of it on a real mountain. Convincing images that are both majestic and harrowing are actually achieved through CGI, but it was used sparingly and realistically for some frightening scenes.
A gripping story in which the journey to the top is enough.