North Face

Rated 3.0

Benno Fürmann and Florian Lukas play two purportedly good-natured but nonetheless extreme! Bavarian bumpkins who tried on Germany’s behalf to conquer the so-called “murder wall” of Switzerland’s Eiger mountain in 1936. Well, it was either that or cleaning Wehrmacht latrines—and what if one of the climbers had extra moral support from a reluctant party-line photojournalist (Johanna Wokalek) who used to be his girlfriend? Throwing in these complications plus Ulrich Tukur as an allegorically callous newspaper editor, Director Philipp Stölzl and sundry co-screenwriters seem to confuse and distract themselves, and us, by positing old-school mountaineering as both tragic index of and retrospective rebuke to burgeoning Third Reich nationalism. “Because it’s there” might have sufficed as reason enough, especially with cinematographer Kolja Brandt rendering the “it” so palpably there. With knuckles alternately white from suspense and black from frostbite, the alpinists get progressively harder to tell apart. But the most compelling character, for all its brutal enormity, always was the mountain.