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4.7 out of 5 stars43
4.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 23 October 2007
As someone who gets dizzy if he wears an extra thick pair of socks I am awe of people who climb mountains . In fact I am in awe of people who can climb ladders, but they as a rule aren't at risk from frostbite , sudden changes in the weather , falling rocks , avalanches and the numerous and terrifying pitfalls that can befall mountain climbers at any given minute.
Nowhere is there more chance of this happening than on the north face of the Eiger. This mountain and more specifically the route up the north face has an irresistible pull for serious climbers and this film attempts to explain why while also giving a superb dramatic reconstruction of an attempt in 1936 that ended in tragedy. While the story itself is remarkable and ultimately very moving it's the eloquent commentary and thoughts of mountaineer Joe Simpson that give this film it's vital empirical heart. Joe Simpson from the film "Touching The Void" survived a near tragedy on a mountain in Peru which of course is what that film was about and so is an ideal person to give insights to what the climbers were thinking and how they would have reasoned and overcome the dilemmas presented to them.
In 1936 the north face of the Eiger had yet to be conquered, indeed the previous year two climbers had perished attempting the climb .Simpson visiting the mountain explains that the north face can be viewed from the town below and thus people with telescopes or binoculars can track the progress( or otherwise) of the climbers . This had happened in 1935 till during one of the storms that descend with rapid ferocity on the mountain face the two climbers disappeared from view . A year later a group of four talented and enthusiastic climbers led by Toni Kurz made an attempt of their own but an unfortunate accident and one decision made it must be said out of unawareness, resulted in their time on the mountain becoming a fight for survival. It's a tale of extraordinary courage , resolution and a sheer will to live . Who better to comment than Simpson ( Who admits he hasn't climbed for three years ,yet after spending some time on the north face for the purposes of the film admits he can feel the pull of the mountain resurfacing ) and his measured conversant tones give this film an even more piquant tone than the story itself would have provided which is saying something .
The DVD has extras to provide further insight and the film itself while being around a hundred times more involving and riveting than any Hollywood blockbuster is also stunning visually with some truly breath-taking shots of the Eiger and the surrounding mountains. This is that rare thing -a film that is both moving and educational ., a quite superb piece of film-making . If you're prone to vertigo it will make you feel dizzy once or twice and that's as near to replicating what these remarkable people do as I'm ever likely to get.
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The north face of the Eiger has long been an infamous climb, and this excellent film explains why. It goes a long way towards explaining why young men take such extreme risks for a short-lived success; why they risk death over and over again. For anyone who is interested in high-risk sports, be it mountaineering, solo yachting, motorsports or such, this is compelling viewing.

The film tells the story of an ill-fated expedition to conquer the Eiger which took place back in the 1930s. Joe Simpson is the narrator and he has a personal stake in the story, because his own climbing career nearly ended in an appalling accident. Through sheer grit and determination, Simpson didn't die on a mountain. He's the perfect person to explain what the climbers must have been thinking and feeling as they struggled up the Eiger some 70 years ago.

The film reconstructs the 1936 attempt, and shows the skilled and heroic achievement of that team's best climber in crossing one particularly difficult rock face. It also explains their downfall; how one rope might have saved them, and how a rockslide doomed them. It's a heart-stopping story -- four men, desperately trying to get down the mountain -- and it ends with one man hanging on a rope with his resucers just 50 feet below him...

Against it all, we can contrast Simpson's personal experiences. He reveals what inspired him to climb, and why that challenge still tugs at him. If you've ever wondered why people still return to the mountains, when the odds are stacking up against them, then Simpson's look of longing towards the Eiger reveals much. There are probably very few mountaineers who can claim to be both 'old' and 'bold', but the desire to take on just one more great climb is obviously near-impossible to resist. Simpson's narrative is as compelling as that of the 1930's team, and it makes this more than 'just another' documentary.

On top of that, some of the filming is simply stunning. It's hard to visualise a mountain climb, and the photography of the Alpine range is majestic. You can see why it lures men and women to their deaths... and the graphics also explain how and why they run into trouble. The path up the north face is clearly mapped, so even a casual viewer can understand how appallingly difficult that climb is to master.

Thrilling, thoughtful viewing. Even if you've seen the programme on TV, it's worth watching the dvd for the extras. A good disc to buy and pass on to your friends too. You don't need to have any special knowledge of mountaineering or climbing to appreciate this film; if you're interested in the human spirit then it's a compelling film.
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on 14 November 2010
Why not buy these three products together? "The Beckoning Silence" - "Touching The Void" - "North Face" They are worth buying as a collection. All three examine in different ways the motives behind what makes people climb mountains, risk their lives and those of others, and drive themselves to success and try to reach the summit. The first two are Joe Simpson's films and are a very deep personal examination of his motives in climbing and in the process they are a courageous analysis of himself. "North Face" is a German dramatised documentary of an incident on the North face of the Eiger in 1936. All three are excellently filmed and excellent examples of dramatised documentary form.
"Touching The Void" is the harrowing description of Joe Simpson's accident on "Siula Grande" with his friend Simon Yates and the horrifying decisions that had to be made, and the courage and determination to live that resulted.
"The Beckoning Silence" is his very personal reflection, years later on the events on "Siula Grande" and how it changed him and he had to learn to accept himself as a different person. During his terrifying turmoil at the end of the rope he was haunted by the memory of the incident with Toni Kurz on the North Face of the Eiger in 1936. By revisiting the site of the incident he explains how he has learned to come to terms with himself and his feelings about climbing.
"North Face" is the dramatised documentary version of this incident on the Eiger and demonstrates through the excellent direction, photography and performances of the actors, all that Joe Simpson has tried to demonstrate and explain in his two films.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves stories about mountain climbing and the human factors involved in challenging the forces of nature and the elements within all of us which in certain situations become tests of our character.
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on 14 December 2010
this is an utterly engrossing depiction of the wonderful book by joe simpson...the eiger and its many victims portrayed in such a way as one sits cosy in an armchair yet can feel the terrible threat of this mountain and the biting cold! the utter pathos of toni kurtz's awful, lonely death, only feet from life and safety, will never leave me. for the 'armchair mountaineer' this is a five star 'must'!
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on 10 August 2008
Other reviewers have outlined the "story", but it's worth adding that the film is chopped about a bit, and surprisingly it works - jumping from the re-enactment of Kurz's original ill fated attempt, to Simpson explaining the technical details of what was happening on the mountain itself. The fact that this is all intertwined with his own experience makes it compelling viewing, as Simpson is nothing if engaging when analysing himself. Ultimately, its a tragic story; the theme of despair is very strongly conveyed, though you're never quite sure if Simpson himself is the tragedy.
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on 31 March 2009
Having caught this documentary when it was first shown on Channel 4 in the UK, I bought it on DVD as soon as it came out so I could watch it again.

Great cinematography, coupled with a compelling and tragic story told brilliantly by Simpson - who has after all been there and done that - this film makes for edge of the seat viewing even for non-climbers. Highly recommended.
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on 13 December 2010
I've always been fascinated by stories of hardship and courage in the mountains, and this story of Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoiser is one that has fuelled my imagination, and taught me to respect those who have gone before. The brilliance of Hinterstoisser's climbing ability and the sheer will power of Kurz to survive right to the end, all brought to life with good climbing sequences and well scripted commentary by Joe Simpson. This is a story of human endurance that would move any one, climber or not. If you're interested in mountaineering or climbing history, or even if you're just a climber who's wondered about the roots of their sport, this dvd is a must. Totally engaging.
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on 30 March 2010
I have had a copy of the 'White Spider' book for some years and have been much like Joe Simpson captivated by the story of Toni Kurz's fate climbing the Eiger. As a climbing survivor (Touching the Void) and an empathic narrator Simpson expertly captures the full intensity of the physical and mental effort involved in climbing the North Face of the Eiger. I sat beneath the North Face in 1977 to eat a meal and have never forgotten the bleak and terrible aspect of this near vertical wall of rock and ice. It all came back to me in greater detail and more as Simpson weaved his enthralling tale....absolutely unmissable.
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on 6 September 2008
I watched the documentary on television, not really knowing what it was all about, but having previously watched Touching the Void and read a couple of other books by Joe Simpson. I was gripped from the outset and it brought back memories of watching an earlier documentary from the 1970's about a climb of the Eiger filmed by Leo Dickinson, and my childhood dream of wanting to see the North Face myself.

The fate of the climbers was too tragic for words; and after a brilliant piece of climbing by one of them that opened up the whole face a simple error, completely unforeseen, eventually led to their untimely deaths. Simpson's use of the Beckoning Silence to describe the North Face is a most appropriate description. Having since been to see the Eiger myself I agree that looking at is awe inspiring and you quickly feel drawn to want to test your skills against its imposing bulk, even if like me you don't climb.

Simpson's own climb on the face itself (accompanied by breathtaking photography) demonstrates how difficult the climb must have been for those without the use of modern day equipment or clothing. Harrer's later account of his own success in The White Spider shows how after the Kurtz tragedy he took every precaution before his own attempt.

If anyone is thinking of taking up mountaineering as a sport I would suggest that this documentary is a must; if only to demonstrate that no matter how good a climber you think you are, danger (and possible death)is only a step away.
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on 7 January 2010
This is a brilliant and tragic documentary about an early attempt by Toni Kurz and his fellow climbers to ascend the unconquered (at the time) north face of the Eiger.

The storytelling is excellennt, and Joe Simpson does a good job of giving you an insight into the life of mountaineering. Essential viewing for anyone who enjoyed touching the void. Touching The Void [DVD] [2003]
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