Firstly, who doesn’t want to see Taipan – majestically bathed in golden light – and hero-to-climbers Kilian Fischhubber latching a double dyno on his not-so-wonderfully named Southern Delight (34/8c+) extension of the wonderfully-named The Invisible Fist of Professor Hiddich Smiddich? The footage is outstanding, it sits as a fitting climax to the film and generates a soaring mix of elation, desire and jingoistic pride. The jingoistic pride is the strangest to fathom; a rock being climbed by an Austrian filmed by an American, but then that is the way with nationalism, it is illogical and unjustifiable.
In fact, and unsurprisingly, all of the outdoor climbing footage in Chuck Fryberger’s new film The Network is beautiful. The establishing shots are inspiring, the lines are proud, the climbers strong, their monologues earnest, the music is apt, the direction good and the editing better. In particular we at VL are suckers for the very tight cutaway shots that depict in tendon-snapping detail the slomo, minute adjustments that fingers make after they settle onto heinous crimps – these are like lines of poetry that reveal the often-lost subtleties masked below the brute force.
The geographic regions covered in the film are stunning. The Colorado trees stand like a silent crowd as Anna Stöhr climbs The Wave; the Nevada desert looks eternal and unfazed as Paul Robinson gleefully turns hard projects into hard routes; Magic Wood appears in lush fairy tale gloom as Daniel Woods ‘struggles’. Beautiful scenario may be climbing film 101 but it certainly remains part of the allure.
Lots of the film though is dedicated to Bouldering World Cup events, focusing on Kilian, and, to a lesser extent, Anna. In a slightly odd rekindling of all-but-forgotten Cold War sentiments Kilian is pitted against the shadowy forces of The Russians, while Anna merely sweeps all before her. These parts of the film are okay and give a nice view on the circuit. What The Network does do well, however, is contrast two distinct sides of this thing called climbing. It does so by drawing a sharp line between the undertaking of competitions and the actual climbing on rock. And perhaps in a bright competitive future, where training methods improve, techniques are more focused and the rewards are even greater, this division will become only more evident than it already is.
This growing dichotomy is never more profound than in Robinson’s candour at the pressures of competing and how those pressures affect him. This is one of the film’s most honest moments and conveys sentiments that many climber will be able to relate to in the same way that, whilst competitions may be alien, we can relate to the quiet scenes of comraderie and climbing depicted most notebly in scenes shot in Colorado.
Similarly to Robinson, at times you get the impression that for Killian the real rock is an escape from the confines of competing and the demands of media and sponsors. Still, the tone of the outdoor climbing may be reflective but the actual climbing is hard. And Kilian’s explosion at the film’s crescendo as he fights through the upper reaches of a glowing Taipan Wall to clip the chains on Southern Delight speaks volumes about the genesis of the name.
On top of all the crushing and the sending and the ticking and the leaves swaying in the soft breeze, we love the premise of The Network, a web of relations that spreads out from key nodes to cover the globe. Here The Network describes something that we all know, feel and take advantage of , that we are a part of networks comprised of people and bound by information flows that make up this nebulous thing called The Climbing Community. And that although the mythology of our sport seems to be one of the accomplishments of the individual, it is the relations we have, and the networks they form, that enable us more than we realise or admit.
Get The Network from http://thenetworkfilm.com/
* VL was also happy to see Dave, Ian and Nalle pay attention to our regular column The Caffeinator. In their little Aussie domestic Grampians bliss the trio are clearly using the Aeropress, VL’s weapon of choice for cragging caffeination.