Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat: Zwei Bruder. Ein Berg. Ihr Schicksal. (Two Brothers. One Mountain. Their Fate.), Pakistan, 24 November 2009

Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier. Filmed on location in Pakistan, South Tyrol and the Austrian Alps. Starring Florian Stetter as Reinhold Messner, Andreas Tobias as Gunther Messner, and Karl Markovics as Karl Maria Herrligkoffer. Released 2009. 99 minutes. In German. This film tells the controversial story from Reinhold Messner's perspective of Reinhold and Gunther Messner's ascent of the enormous 4500m Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in 1970, and Gunther's death on the descent down the Diamir Face. It was the first traverse of Nanga Parbat.

Story

The film opens with scenes of Reinhold Messner and Gunther Messner growing up, their family, and a few climbing scenes. Reinhold goes to visit Karl Herrligkoffer in May 1969 to try and get on his planned expedition, and then Gunther Messner gets invited when another climber drops out. A recurring scene in the movie is Reinhold arriving on crutches and interrupting a lecture by Herrligkoffer in Munich after the end of the expedition, to tell the audience his view of the expedition and the struggle of he and his brother. At a formal dinner in Islamabad, Reinhold spars with Karl - Reinhold comes across cocky, irreverent, outspoken, and we can see this aggravates Karl and some of his fellow climbers. Karl comes across indecisive, nervous, and jumpy, deferring to Reinhold much of the time. There are some very good scenes of the chaotic Pakistani street, village and people, and the trek to base camp.

Reinhold and Gunther Messner lead the climbing and setting up camps, while Karl Herrligkoffer dictates the expedition report in the comfort of base camp. Reinhold and Gunther Messner, Felix Kuen, Peter Stolz and Gerhard Baur eventually are in place for a summit attempt. Reinhold calls Karl on the phone and they agree that if there is bad weather forecast, base camp will set off a red flare and Reinhold will then try for the summit alone. Although the weather forecast was good, base camp set off the red flare. On June 27 at 3:00, Reinhold set off by himself to try and reach the summit. Gunther gets up a a few hours later and decides to follow Reinhold. He catches up with Reinhold, who gives in that his brother can join him. Together, they reach the summit of Nanga Parbat on June 27 at 17:00.

Gunther was starting to suffer from altitude sickness and told Reinhold he was too weak to descend by the same difficult ascent route. Reinhold and Gunther descend on the Diamir side and bivouac next to the Merkl Gap at 7800m in cold -40C weather with only thin foil space blankets for shelter. Their toes froze solid. The next morning Reinhold sees Felix Kuen and Peter Scholz just 100m away climibng towards the summit. Reinhold yells to Felix to get him to climb up and give him a rope so they could rapel down and regain the ascent route. Felix doesn't understand, and to Reinhold's horror continues climibing towards the summit. Maybe the wind confused their exchange of words.

Reinhold returned to the bivouac site to tell Gunther they had been abandoned, and now had no choice but to descend the Diamir, making a full traverse of the mountain. Gunther was having trouble walking, but Reinhold led the way, working out a descent route from his memory of pictures of the face. That night the brothers survived another bivouac. By midday on June 29, they were low on the Diamir Face, but Gunther trailed farther and farther behind. The brothers had almost nothing to eat or drink for 40 hours. Reinhold hurried ahead, passing out of sight of his brother, and found ice water to drink. Meanwhile, Felix and Peter made it to the summit and returned to base camp, welcomed by Karl as heroes.

After waiting for Gunther, Reinhold, though utterly spent, climbed back onto the glacier, finding a fresh pile of snow and huge, jumbled blocks of ice from a recent avalanche. Reinhold eventually had to give up and save himself, crawling part of the way because of his frozen feet. A series of sturdy villagers carried him on their backs down to the lowlands. He returns home with frostbite so severe that six of his toes had to be amputated.

I like this movie for the dramatization of Reinhold Messner's tragic story of the first ascent the enormous Nanga Parbat Rupal Face. Yes, it is Messner's views, not the other people's views, but I frankly believe Messner. The climbing scenes are well done, giving you some of the feeling of the climb, the height and steepness. I really liked the integration of actual footage of Nanga Parbat with the scenes filmed in Europe. The movie doesn't really portray the depth of the emotions in the film very well. Except for Karl Markovics, whose acting as Karl Maria Herrligkoffer was convincing and interesting, the acting was a a little one-dimensional and superficial.

Extras include Interviews (20 minutes) with the actors and Reinhold Messner, and The Making Of (50 minutes), where we see how heavily Reinhold Messner was involved in the production.

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