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Review: North Face

A fit of Nazi peak
By GERALD PEARY  |  February 10, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

Nazi queen Leni Riefenstahl's The Blue Light (1932) was only one example of a peculiar, culturally specific German genre known as "mountain films" — mythic, pseudo-poetic narratives that flourished in the era when the Third Reich came into being. Philipp Stölzl, who's been educated in these Fascist fantasies from the 1930s, brings us a consciously revisionist version of the old tale.

Set in Germany in 1936, North Face tells of two young, apolitical mountain climbers (Benno Fürmann, Florian Lukas) who're induced to tackle the nigh-impossible north face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps because Hitler wants a German up there. North Face takes a while to get stirring — there's too much inert talk on the ground in a five-star Swiss hotel looking up at the mountain. But you don't have to be a Nazi to be totally mesmerized by the intense drama on the Eiger: the nimble ascent, the calamities that befall our noble climbers, and the pitiable disasters.

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