North Face (Nordwand) (2008)

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Released 13-Jul-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Theatrical Trailer-(2.30)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 120:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Philipp Stölzl

Madman Entertainment
Starring Benno Fürmann
Florian Lukas
Johanna Wokalek
Georg Friedrich
Simon Schwarz
Ulrich Tukur
Erwin Steinhauer
Branko Samarovski
Petra Morzé
Hanspeter Müller
Peter Zumstein
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Christian Kolonovits

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In 1938 Edward Lisle Strutt, the editor of the Alpine Journal called the North face of the Eiger mountain ”an obsession for the mentally deranged”. He had a point. Though the Western face of the mighty mountain in the Swiss Alps had been climbed in 1858, the deadly North face was not even attempted until 1936. The delay was understandable for the North face of the Eiger is still one of the most formidable climbs on the planet and has a significant death toll of 64. The dangers are not just the sheer height of the vertical incline but the unpredictability of the weather, sunny one moment and blizzard the next, and the instability of rocks and snow causing a rain of death from above. Not for nothing was it named Mordwand, (Deathwall). The climb still regularly claimed lives until the late 1960s, though modern equipment has made the job somewhat safer.

     Welcome to 1936 and this often tense dramatisation of an assault on the mountain. After the disastrous first attempt on the North face (don't believe the DVD case which suggests that the film depicts that first attempt), Europe braces to see who will be next to try to conquer the unconquerable. With the Berlin Olympics approaching the Fuhrer wants a German to be the first to scale it. Not only would it be a show of the Aryan indomitable spirit but it also makes a good symbolic justification for the impending march of Germany throughout Europe.

     Our two heroes Andreas (Andi) Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas) and Toni Kurz (Benno Furmann) don't have much time for politics. They live for the thrill of the climb. If the film is to be believed, Andi is the more reckless of the two and Toni the more careful. Toni doesn't want to take on the North face for obvious reasons - he thinks the challenge is outweighed by the risk.

     Newspaper office junior Luise Fellner (Joanne Wokalek) has come to Berlin to work in the big city. When the editor of the paper she works for receives a rev up to get a German up the mountain Luise lets slip that she grew up with the boys in the country. She is dispatched to encourage them to take the challenge. Andi is keen as mustard but Toni won't budge. It takes a while before Andi wears him down.

     North Face, the movie, is roughly split into thirds; the background to the decision to climb, the preparations for the climb and the ascent of the mountain. Director Philipp Stoelzl gives us ample time, perhaps a little too long, to get to know the characters before they risk life and limb on the rock face. The interplay between Luise and Toni gives us a nice love story, making this more than just some blokes climbing a giant cliff. However, the "political" scenes, where Luise learns that any but a spectacular success or a spectacular death is unacceptable to the Fuhrer or the newspaper, are a little laboured and dull. No such criticism can be thrown at the climbing scenes which are expertly filmed and tense beyond belief. Like Touching the Void, the ease with which situations can go from well controlled to life threatening is gasp worthy. Little more should be said about the plot of the film.

     The leads are very likeable and the Alpine location seems very real and freezing just to watch. Had there been a little more climbing and a little less padding the film would have been easier to recommend for adventure junkies.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     North Face was shot on 35mm film and projected at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a pleasing DVD transfer. The flesh tones are accurate and the look of the film, understandably chilly, is well conveyed by the stable, accurate colours. The blacks are suitably inky and the snow is very white! The grain level is low.

     The final third of the film is mostly in half darkness and driving snow. Still, the transfer handles it well with only minor evidence of compression.

     There are subtitles in English that are burned into the print.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     North Face features a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at 224Kb/s. This is perfectly fine for the dialogue of the film but it would have been nice to have a surround track as much of the film features biting, swirling winds and the DVD would have benefitted from the increased soundscape. As it is the 2.0 track conveys the dialogue clearly, which appears to be in audio sync.

     The score for the film is by Christian Kolonovits. It has both a classical sweeping grandeur and a dramatic power.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

This DVD contains as a sole extra a letterboxed trailer for the film. No extra at all when you consider what other regions get.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Apparently, the Region 2 version of this film (including a Blu-ray release) have some good reasons to be recommended including a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a swathe of extras:

     A pity we didn't get them. Go the Region 2.


     North Face is a gripping "will they or won't they" drama which effectively uses CGI to really take us up the mountain. The desire to broaden the appeal of the movie by introducing a love story and a political context lessens the tension a little but this is still a highly watchable adventure.

     The DVD is fine and looks very good. It sounds fine too but a surround track would have enhanced the experience.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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