Meru

 

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Intimate but epic, this is the story of three men determined to conquer Meru Peak.

 

Meru Peak in the Himalayas is much less famous than Everest, but for the celebrated mountaineer Conrad Anker it represented a challenge that haunted him for years. Eventually in 2003 he attempted a climb but had to turn back, a failure that only served to spur him on to try again in September 2008 which is when this film takes up his story. From then on we follow his further endeavours accompanied by Jimmy Chin, then a climbing partner for almost seven years, and by Renan Ozturk selected by Anker to join him for the first time. These two also had another accomplishment and are credited as the photographers of this film, while Chin in addition shares the directorial credit with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
 

Meru

  

For many viewers Meru will gain an extra charge from the fact that the history of Anker, Chin and Ozturk is not familiar so that there is real suspense as we observe their progress not without setbacks even including issues arising from injuries. All of this material is presented judiciously: the blend of footage taken on the mountain, archive material and fresh comments in voice over or, more often, direct to camera, is hardly a novel one, but the balance achieved is just right. Thus the particular challenges offered by the Meru climb are made clear. There is the slow progress required to scale the wall of the peak, issues relating to food (given the limits on how much can readily be carried, delays due to a storm extending the number of days on the mountain could necessitate a return to base) and on top of that the hazardous temperatures that endanger fingers and toes. The absolute trust in each other required by a small team like this one is emphasised.
 
Furthermore, at intervals the film breaks away from the climbing to give background information about all three men and this increases our sense of involvement while also providing variety. This film may not be able to explain exactly what it is that motivates climbers such as these, but it is frank about the way in which many of them will assess risks as acceptable or unacceptable while yet being so driven that they will then decide how far to go with the unacceptable. Meru, save for its location, hardly covers new ground, but viewers keen on this kind of film should not be disappointed by this one. Although it did not make it through to the actual nominations for this year’s Oscars in the documentary category, it was considered good enough to be on the short list of fifteen.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chen, Renan Ozturk, Jennifer Lowe-Anker, Grace Chin, Jon Krukauer.

 

Dir Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Pro Chin, Shannon Ethridge and Vasarhelyi, Ph Chin and Renan Ozturk, Ed Bob Eisenhardt, Music J. Ralph.

 

Little Monster Films-Picturehouse Entertainment.
90 mins. India/USA. 2015. Rel: 12 February 2015. Cert. 15.