North Face (Nordwand)


North Face (Nordwand)

Critics Consensus

A tense and gripping spectacular piece of snow-bound historical German film-making.



Total Count: 57


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,560
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North Face (Nordwand) Photos

Movie Info

Based on a true story, about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. In 1936, Nazi propaganda urges German Alpinists to conquer the unclimbed north face of the Swiss massif, the Eiger, bringing two reluctant climbers, Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, to begin their daring ascent and attempt to scale the infamous rock face, often called the Murder Wall. While preparing themselves at the foot of the North Face, Toni and Andi unexpectedly run into Luise, the early love of Toni. Now a journalist, she has come with her boss Arau, a loyal Nazi, to report about the first ascent. Toni begins the ascent of the North Face with Andi, closely followed by two Austrians Willy Angerer and Edi Rainer. All goes well at first as both rope teams make good headway but then the climbers lose their advantage over the mountain and the race against time and the forces of nature begins.

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Benno Fürmann
as Toni Kurz
Florian Lukas
as Andi Hinterstoisser
Johanna Wokalek
as Luise Fellner
Georg Friedrich
as Edi Rainer
Simon Schwarz
as Willy Angerer
Ulrich Tukur
as Henry Arau
Erwin Steinhauer
as Emil Landauer
Petra Morzé
as Elisabeth Landauer
Branko Samarovski
as Albert von Allmen
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Critic Reviews for North Face (Nordwand)

All Critics (57) | Top Critics (22) | Fresh (48) | Rotten (9)

Audience Reviews for North Face (Nordwand)

  • Jul 18, 2013
    I reckon during the Nazi era, Germany was going to conquer Switzerland one way or another, even if all they were going to do was conquer some rock face in the Bernese Alps. 3,970 meters, or 13,020 ft., of cold that is intense by Swiss standards; couldn't Hitler have just challenged Henri Guisan to a game of checkers or something? Oh, well, it's only the north face of the Eiger, which isn't but about, oh, say, 3,970 meters, or 13,020 ft., so what's the big deal? Man, in 2010, they had this film that told the story of a bunch of guys in the '30s who struggled in an intensely snowy environment, as well as "127 Hours", which was about some guy struggling in an intensely rocky environment in the 2000s, so I guess then was particularly the time to let people know to be seriously careful when having fun in the climbing, no matter what time it is. Well, canyoneering isn't quite climbing a blasted mountain, and there have been over 50 attempts after the one portrayed in this film to climb the Nordwand, which is nothing compared to the number of people who have taken on the even taller Mt. Everest, so maybe it's kind of unfortunate that no one is seeing this film, because we white people have never been able to learn. Hey, maybe it's not the Germans trying to outdo the Swiss, but rather white people trying to prove that they can, in fact, be whiter than snow, as there is nothing quite whiter than trying to climb a mountain... up until you turn blue from freezing to death. Yeah, this high from height better be exhilarating, because it's crazy, though it sure does make for a decent film, which isn't to say that you should be too eager, or rather "Eiger" (Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk), about seeing this film, because it, like plenty of people who try to climb famously immense mountains, makes its trips along the way. The film bills itself as historical fiction, and as promised, several of the more broad historical aspects to this story go untouched, yet in plenty of areas, this film sensationalizes its subject matter with the German answer to Hollywood punch-up, which is fine and all, but wouldn't be as questionable as it is if this film didn't emphasize the limited significance to its liberties through storytelling mistakes, such as a sense of manufacturing to dramatic aspects that is arguably at its most intense within a histrionic romantic subplot, whose effectiveness is further hurt by conventionalism, a bit of underwriting and, well, Johanna Wokalek's being, with all do respect, too mightily homely to be entirely believable as a love interest, regardless of her good performance. I wouldn't say that the problems to the often rather artificial-feeling dramatic liberties to this film are all that glaring, but they are there, and they're kind of hard to miss, bloating an already pretty overblown ambition with too much material for narrative evenness, let alone tightness to be all that firmly secured. I found the two-hour runtime of this survival drama questionable when I first heard about it, but after looking more into this film's layered plot concept, and actually observing the extensiveness that went into the storytelling of the final product, I can only say that, yes, the film still feels overlong, though not entirely because of the German "Hollywoodisms" that I just discussed, as there is excess material, perhaps even filler, within the smallest of places that end up going a long way in establishing a sense of repetition and dragging, decidedly exacerbated by a limpness to the atmosphere. The film is compelling enough to keep you going through all of the slow spells, and even delivers on plenty of genuine thrills to help reinforce such compellingness, yet when things slow down, if not quiet down, director Philipp Stölzl chills out (Pun not intended, yet I said it anyways) atmosphere enough to dull things down and distance you, but not without drawing your attention toward the film enough to recognize the aforementioned other storytelling shortcomings, as well as the more natural shortcomings. As worthy as this subject matter is to begin with, and as much as the film desperately works to punch up this story with fictionalized dramatic beats, there's still only so much meat to this minimalist tale about people simply trying to survive the harshness of nature, and while there's enough juice on paper for you to see signs of the rewarding efforts this film comes close to being, too many errors in storytelling are made for you to ignore the limitations within the story that is being rather messily told. Sure, as "127 Hours", the borderline masterpiece of a companion to this 2010 survival drama, reminded us, when done right, films of this type can go a long way, but this isn't really how you get things down, for although the film is borderline rewarding, it grows to lose too much steam to cross the line it clearly wants to cross. That being said, the final product climbs on enough to come close to its goal, carried by enough dramatic tastefulness to get you by, as well as a bit of musical tastefulness to flavor things up. Seeing as how this film has more than a few quiet spells, Christian Kolonovits' score is unevenly used, but when it does arrive, I must say, it's well worth the wait, as Kolonovits really delivers on a surprisingly outstanding richness to his classically-charged musical tastes that is both thoroughly enjoyable on its own, and has a certain dynamic soul to it that compliments a sense of wonderment to the mountain climbing, intensity to the danger and tender heart to the drama. The more manipulative areas to this film can be all but entirely blamed on the shortcomings in writing and direction, so Kolonovits is actually consistent in his complimenting the genuine areas of this drama, as surely as art director Tommy Vögel keeps consistent in complimenting immersion value, whether when he's backing Udo Kramer's clever production designs and Birgit Hutter's tasteful costume designs in order to subtly sell you on the era in which this period piece is set, or when he's backing an illusion of the immensity of the Eiger that is immersively convincing, especially when backed by highlights in Kolja Brandt's grand cinematography. This is a very intimate drama, and at least on a stylistic level, the final product delivers enough in the way of sharpness to immerse you into and sell you on this worthy, humanity-driven story, kind of like the performances. A more momentum-driven bottle thriller, rather than the type of meditative survival drama that gave Tom Hanks and James Franco enough material to really stand out, this film isn't exactly exceptionally well-acted, but as a dramatic character study dealing with such heavy themes as survival, it gives our leads plenty of opportunities to engage, and just about all of them deliver enough on dramatic layers to breathe much life into the heart of this thoughtful thriller. Memorable performances anchor many of the dramatic aspects that drive this intimate ensemble character piece, yet they're decidedly not strong enough to do what people like Hanks and Franco did and carry the final product's compellingness as much as anyone or anything, thus it falls upon the tellers of this worthy tale to carry the final product as successful. As I've been saying time and again, this film's storytelling is not as engrossing as it probably should be, and it's not like this minimalist subject matter opens all that many doors for reward value, but there is a good deal of potential to this film, and much of it is genuinely done justice by such commendable aspects as generally well-rounded characterization within Christoph Silber's, Rupert Henning's, Johannes Naber's and director Phillip Stölzl's slightly bloated script, as well as enough heart to Phillip Stölzl's directorial atmosphere to keep the dull spells from getting too dull, and make the heights in dramatic effectiveness pretty sharp. Stölzl's overambitious efforts are not without their shortcomings, but Stölzl makes sure that you never completely forget what this film could have been, and while you grow too used to the limited momentum of the storytelling, as well as to the missteps in storytelling, there's enough bit to this dramatic thriller for you to catch glimpses of strength through all of the underwhelmingness, and that's enough to make the final product borderline rewarding and conclusively decent. When the chill has passed, the final product is made too cold by manufactured and often formulaic dramatic touches to the historical liberties that also go into supplementing the repetitious bloating, - which is made even more glaring by atmospheric dull spells - as well as by natural shortcomings to its story concept, to survive as generally rewarding, but there is enough excellence to Christian Kolonovits, immersion value to Tommy Vögel's art direction, strength to the acting, and highlights to writing and direction, for "North Face" to stand on the edge of rewarding, which is far enough to keep you going time and again, in spite of shortcomings. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 04, 2011
    Luise: When you're at the bottom - Toni once told me - at the foot of the wall, and you look up, you ask yourself: How can anyone climb that? Why would anyone even want to? But hours later when you're at the top looking down, you've forgotten everything. Except the one person you promised you would come back to.  North Face is a mountain climbing film that tries to be a lot more than that. Overall it is a good movie, but I can't help but feel that it could have and should have been a whole lot better. I'm not saying it is bad, but I think the director, Philipp Stolzl, tries to do a little too much; when if he would have just stocked to the basics it could have been a lot more exciting on the ascension and much more suspenseful on the descension.  North Face is the story of two young Germans who are attempting to be the first to climb North Face. They are racing two Austrians to the top, as many reporters and spectators gather at a hotel to watch and take part in history. Among the reporters is a woman, who knows the two Germans and loves one of them, that being Toni. She is excited to see them be the first to make it and never really shows any concern about them attempting it. Where the movie goes wrong in my opinion is that it can't just stick with the climbers. It cuts from the mountain to the hotel every five minutes. The action is up on the mountain with the climbers, not down on the ground with people who are just sitting and talking. Also I don't think the love interest really added that much to the movie, except just to add another plot detail. Before the climb, I didn't really see the love being all that strong between the two characters. I'd have liked it a lot more had they cut out a lot of the scenes down below and added a lot more to the actual mountain climbing scenes. The scenes that take place on the mountain are tremendous. The scenery is beautiful at times and scary at times.  While I don't feel like the movie was completely ruined, I was just kind of put off by some of the plot decisions. I enjoyed the experience though, as it was times an exciting, suspenseful and ultimately sad story.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Aug 02, 2011
    Some more character development would have been nice, but it's still a pretty gripping film. Plus, it's safe to say that they picked one of the most beautiful areas in the world to center a movie around.
    Alex M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 27, 2011
    I was thinking this was going to be a movie of triumph over adversity and it really end up being more gut wrenching than I ever expected. Its sooo German. The movie focuses on who will be the first to climb the shear north face of the Eiger in pre-WWII Switzerland. The pivotal point of the movie is where the two team are working together and still competing and one of the opposing team is struck in the head with large rock and seriously injured. Leaving the other team to fend for themselves would be sure death for the injured climber. The intensity of the climbing is well conveyed, but the rest of the story drags down the pace with little reward.
    Bill C Super Reviewer

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