Rock Climbing Movie Reviews

by Marya Doery, January 24, 2012

To the Limit (1989)

Thumbs down!

To the Limit is not a rock climbing movie, per se. In fact, it's a 35 minute public TV production which explores the behavior of the human body in some "extreme" activities: rock climbing, speed skiing, and ballet.

The footage of rock climbing is relatively brief, and kind of fake. There are some nice shots of a climber doing crack climbing, but not a whole lot of it. There's a fake drama where the climber falls, and his rope slowly becomes frayed. He reaches safety in the nick of time, just before the rope breaks. That was just silly. And then there's a shot where the climber clutches at a fist-sized rock, and clears it out of the way by tossing it down the cliff side! He didn't shout "Rock!" as a warning, which is the proper (and safe) thing to do. So yuck. Finally, we never once see his climbing partner, which is weird. It's almost implied that he's soloing, but then he's on a rope and using quickdraws, so go figure.

So far as rock climbing goes, it was not really worth watching. I found the skiing footage more interesting. I wasn't in love with the "science" presented, either. It was very fluffy and not technically detailed enough for me.

Amazonia Vertical (2005)

Thumbs up!

Amazonia Vertical is not a rock climbing movie; it's more of an adventure documentary about Slovak Becko Ondrejovic's sneaky journey across an approximately 8000-foot high Venezuelan plateau called Auyantepui. The journey is sneaky because the locals supposedly consider the area cursed, and possibly-probably would have been disturbed to some extent by our adventurers' ascent of it.

Ondrejovic made the trip with 3 partners, including the cameraman. The narrator mentions that they carried packs weighing 30 kg (66 lbs), and 180 m (almost 600 ft) of rope. That's a lot of stuff...

The video quality is not great; Ondrejovic clearly didn't have a ton of resources. If you can stand that, the movie is still fairly interesting. Starting at about 10 minutes in, we get footage of the group doing technical rock climbing up what appears to be very dirty, wildly featured rock. In addition, there are shots where the group does some long rappels. Unfortunately, none of this footage is detailed enough - there's no explanation of how the rigging was done, or how difficult the climbing was, aside from one remark at 20 minutes that they climbed a section that was "7+" - but I don't know what grading system he was using! The group used pitons, but it was never explained why. Was the rock very crumbly?

Aside from the rock climbing, the film has some random footage of their hikes, and a river trip that they made after the mountaineering was done with. We also get to see whatever fauna they happened to stumble across - mostly unidentified snakes and large insects.

Throughout the movie, Ondrejovic makes disapproving comments about the encroachment of civilization on this pristine area. Yeah, it's true, but by this same standard you can question how Ondrejovic justifies his own trip over this territory. The fact that the film was made almost ensures that other groups will follow in his footsteps, opening up the area to further destruction.

Despite these quibbles, the film is short enough (1 hour) that it's entertaining without getting repetitive. Worth watching via Netflix or as a rental, but personally I wouldn't buy the DVD.

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