28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Gripping film; enthralling and revealing,
This review is from: The Beckoning Silence [DVD] (DVD)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.