(gb) wrote: Athletics as Propaganda It's a bit alarming that this movie takes place in July. The weather in it is completely historically accurate; hard as it is for some people to believe, these men were battling blizzards during their climb. And, of course, the mountain already had enough tunneling in it so that the rescuers were basically hanging out a window. This movie doesn't feel as real as the events it's chronicling actually were. Oh, we don't know terribly much about the private lives of the two main characters, and I think the third, the woman, is completely invented. However, the basic outline of the story is true, including the ridiculous and byzantine politics of the time and place. The events of the film take place scant weeks before the Berlin Olympics of 1936, and they tie into that in ways that seem improbable to modern eyes. It was all part of the German cult of athleticism and Aryan superiority. However, Toni Kurz (Benno Frmann) and Andi Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas) just like climbing mountains. They're in the military--but they're in the mountain forces. In Berlin, the staff of a newspaper discuss the season's prospective attempts to climb the north face of the Swiss mountain of Eiger. The secretary taking the minutes is Luise Fellner (Johanna Wokalek), a childhood friend of Toni and Andi. She is sent home to get the true story of the climbers, but at first, she comes away with the declaration that they will not be making the attempt. She and her boss, Henry Arau (Ulrich Tukur), go to Switzerland to see the climb, and she is surprised to find Toni and Andi there. They have resigned and biked to Switzerland to make the climb. However, the weather on Eiger is bad enough so that most of the people who have gathered there to attempt to be the ones to make the historic first climb have decided that it isn't worth it. The only ones to go up are Andi, Toni, and the Austrian team of Willy Angerer (Simon Schwarz) and Edi Rainer (Georg Friedrich). The truly horrifying thing about this story, to me at least, is that the whole thing was kind of a tourist attraction. The entire north face of the mountain was visible by telescope from a hotel. You could sit in remarkable luxury and watch young men die before your eyes. Not always; in the summer of 1936, the mountain was covered by cloud and fog through most of the climb, and the only reason we know what happened on the mountain was that the rescuers got there before everyone was dead. However, the whole thing about the incredibly luxurious hotel where the climbers mostly couldn't afford to stay? True. It's part of why the climbing of the north face drew so much media attention; nothing draws media attention like a dramatic story you can see from a very comfortable place. Yes, it's also true that mountain climbing was a more exiting Thing in the days before high-tech equipment, and of course that was before tourist trips to Mount Everest. Still. Oh, and there's the Nazi thing. The two pairs to attempt to make the climb that year were German and Austrian. This was two years before the [i]Anschluss[/i], and the Germans were already speaking of the Greater German Reich. They really did believe that showing the athletic superiority of the Germans would prove the general superiority of Aryans, and this was before Jesse Owens went on to demonstrate that Aryan superiority wasn't all it was cracked up to be. After all, these young men were from the town where Hitler had his vacation retreat, in the mountains of Bavaria. The fact that the German and Austrian pairs ended up working together would have, had they succeeded, shown that the Germans and Austrians really were meant to be together. Or something. As opposed to showing that, in times of adversity, people do better working together than pushing one another apart. Somehow, Hitler never was big on seeing messages of unity except in his own isolationist sense. I don't think we need the relationship between Luise and Toni, come to that, in order to get a feel for the story. There are plenty of moments to consider, moments of true affection between people. However, there is something to be said for showing the difference between the Berlin life they presumably would have lived if they had come back heroes and the quiet country life which is what they really wanted. The only mountains in Berlin are social ones, after all. In the end, the aspect of the story which matters most is men banding together against a mountain. Indeed, for large amounts of the story, we don't even get a distant look at the mountain. As long as it is hidden from observers by cloud, what we get is the view that the climbers have. And while I don't know much about mountain climbing, I suspect that, once you have started, you cannot think about climbing the whole thing. Just the little bit that you're facing now.