The Dark Glow of the Mountains (Gasherbrum: Der Leuchtende Berg)

The Dark Glow of the Mountains (Gasherbrum: Der Leuchtende Berg), Pakistan, 15 November 1985

Directed by Werner Herzog. Filmed 1984. Released 1985. 45 minutes. Overdubbed in English. Herzog follows Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander as they attempt the first traverse of two 8000m peaks, Gasherbrum II and I. Messner: “Nothing like this has ever been tried before. We’ve got no points of reference.” Instead of focusing on the climbing, Herzog want to know: “What goes on inside mountain climbers who undertake such extreme endeavours. What is the fascination that drives them up to the peaks like addicts? Aren’t these mountains and peaks like something deep down inside us all?”


Herzog follows the expedition to Skardu where Messner buys supplies and selects the porters. They drive to Dasso and then trek along the Braldu river and up the Baltoro Glacier to Base Camp. Messner is interviewed in a hot spring near Askole, and several times at Base Camp, including a very humourous one with a porter giving him a vigorous massage. Messner mentions that they "climb freestyle. Each of us is responsible for himself." He talks about descending Nanga Parbat in 1970 with his brother Gunther dying and how it changed his life. "I didn’t care if I died or not … when I got home I had this feeling that my life began anew with that tragedy." When Herzog asks him how he broke the news of Gunther's death to their mother, Messner breaks down and sobs.

Messner and Kammerlander than leave for their climb, with Herzog following them with long telephoto scenes of them on the glacier and a slow telephoto pan from the two climbers low on the route, up, up along the route to the summit, clearly showing the length and scale of their climb. Messner uses a small movie camera to film Hans Kammerlander arriving on the summit of Gasherbrum II on June 25, 1984, the view from Gasherbrum II, and their climb in bad weather to the summit of Gasherbrum I on June 28, 1984. They finally cross the glacier and arrive back in Base Camp. Messner is interviewed again as he bathes naked in a glacial pool.

DVD5 of Werner Herzog's Documentaries and Shorts DVD collection also has The great ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1973, 44 minutes), No one will play with me (1976, 14 minutes), Ballad of the Little Soldier (1984, 44 minutes), and Werner Herzog eats his shoe (1980, 21 minutes).

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