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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
North Face (Nordwand) - 2008
North Face is a film I thoroughly enjoyed about German climbers, Toni Kurz (Benno Furmann) and Andreas Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas). The film is set in 1936, where German climbers all over the nation are being urges to climb the most dangerous mountain in Alps, which has never been done before. The good friends Toni and Andreas are some of the finest climbers of their kind, and when one of their past friends has joined the press, pushing them to climb, Andreas wants in. However, having someone just recently die on the very same mountain, Toni won't attempt, because of the danger. But as time goes by, Toni changes his mind and the two, along with the heartless press and competition, race to see who can get to the top of the mountain first.
The thing I found most interesting about this film, was about thirty minutes through it, people were discussing what would happen if the rock climbers failed, and could not get off the mountain. Another person explained that no one was legally required to help any of them off the mountain. In other words, unless they succeed they're dead. To me, that is tragic, and maybe one of the reasons it is still remembered and an important day in German history. Four people try to climb one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, for nothing but fame and pressure. In my opinion, that's just not worth it.
Now, on with the review. There's no hiding that German cinema is not one of my most familiar points, but North Face was a suggestion for me on Netflix, the cover was intriguing enough, so I watched it. As much as I did not really expect do, I liked this film a lot. Of course it was filled with its share of flaws, and there were things I did not like, but all in all it was a highly enjoyable film to watch.
To start with, the cinematography was beautiful, and it is no wonder why critics have said that the mountain steals the show. I would definitely be willing to bet that the crew was working with set pieces some parts of the film, and if that is correct, then let me tell you those were some realistic and incredibly made set pieces. The audience feels like we are stuck on that mountain, desperately trying to reach the top. Meanwhile we're brought some of the most eye popping scenery ever caught on film. The only thing I have to complain about is the actual camera, could they not keep it still, please?
Philipp Stolzl's debut as a director was good, but I really can't praise it too much. There were way too many scenes in the film that simply were not needed, and had nothing to do with development of characters or story. Needless to say, the first hour of the movie was much less interesting than it was supposed to be. With that being said, once everyone was on the mountain and such, Stolzl was excellent. Then his direction picked up the pace and started gripping the audience, just before we all left for a different movie. Stolzl's jpb gets a B- overall for me, as I cannot help but think it could have, and probably should have been better than it was. But he still worked well with the crew, actors, and screenwriter to put this extraordinary true story on the big screen.
The screenplay, written by Stolzl, Rupert Henning, Christopher Silber, and Johannes Naber, was easily the weakest part of the film. Let's talk about no character development at all, which is possibly the most important part of almst every film. We all know from the beginning, considering this is a true story, that it is going to end in tragedy, or a great and historic accomplishment. Either way the audience won't care too much because no one watching the film is attached to the characters. We don't care too much what happens, we are only watching for the history at this point.
The script was terrible. Nothing but cheesy dialogue all throughout the film, and trust me, there is nothing I hate worse. Especially the dialogue between Toni Kurz and Luis Fellner, who are in love, but that of course is not developed either. None of it worked for me, I just felt like I was in a large pot of cliche and cheese. No thank you.
The performances saved the film for me. Benno Furmann was especially spectacular. Talk about truly getting into a role, and becoming that person, Furmann does it perfectly here. Florian Lukas, though showed up by his partner, does a fine job as well. I did not absolutely love Johanna Wokalek as Luis Fellner, but by the middle of the film she settled down into her role and began to do a much better job.
Overall, if you are particularly interested in North Face, or just want an entertaining film to watch so you can pass the time, go for it. But if you are looking for a great film, or simply a solid one, I would go elsewhere, as North Face has far too many flaws for that.