The photo is taken from the North Face Facebook page.
Here is a treat. Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, young soldiers in the German army in 1936, care more more mountains than for the military. We first meet them as they are scrubbing urinals for returning late to base after a climbing trip. The CO comes to see if they have learned their lesson. “Can’t you read your watches?” he bellows, to which Hinterstoisser, standing at attention and staring straight ahead, answers in full formal address, “Sir. We don’t have watches, sir!” Their work detail is subsequently tripled.
It is a classic scene that illustrates the conflict inherent in addicted alpinists: the uber-relevance of climbing and the comparative irrelevance of anything else – time, duty, even Hitler’s army. Later the two quit to try to be the first to climb the North Face of the Eiger, and what follows is a gripping retelling of true events on what was known as the Wall of Death.
Interwoven are important and well developed sub-stories of honor, integrity, and what matters most. In one amazing scene that you will have to see to fully understand, a young journalist, just starting out and eager to make her name as a photographer, looks at her editor who is handing her a camera, and cans the whole deal by saying, “I didn’t come here to take pictures.” In one short sentence, she nukes her editor and her journalism career, asserts herself, and redefines her reasons for being in Switzerland at all. It quickens the pulse.
Another aspect of the film of no mean significance is its historical portrayal 30’s era mountaineering. Belaying, rappelling, and ascending looked a lot different in the days before ascenders, ATCs, and figure-eights. Rope in those days was a three-strand twist of what looked like hempen twine, and there is one scene in the film in which Andi and Toni are hammering out their own pitons in preparation for the climb – leading this reviewer to conclude that chief among the factors responsible for the explosive popularity of climbing over the last 40 years is that by the 1970’s if you wanted to climb, you didn’t also have to be a blacksmith with a full-furnace hot forge in your garage.
It is great storytelling. Subtitled, so be ready to read. Interestingly, all of my kids watched it all the way through and enjoyed it even though their collective tolerance for subtitles is probably three lines long.
Here is more info. Have Netflix send it to you. There is enduring truth to be found on the Wall of Death.