Film: Ridge, The / Pura vida – The Ridge (2012)

March 26, 2014 | By


flyerpuravidaDEFtrFilm: Weak

Transfer:  n/a / Extras:   n/a

Label:   n/a 

Region:   n/a

Released:    n/a

Genre:  Documentary / Mountain Climbing

Synopsis:  Friends and colleagues converge in Nepal to rescue an immobilized climber after he suffers a stroke while ascending a deadly ridge on Mount Annapurna.

Special Features:    n/a 




Boasting beautiful time lapse cinematography of the misty and snowy peaks of Nepal’s Mount Annapurna, Pablo Iraburu and Migueltxo Molina’s film should be a moving experience for viewers expecting a story of heroism and humanism, but in their determination to integrate every word of the numerous participants of the planned rescue of climber Inaki Ochoa de Ola into their feature-length narrative, The Ridge loses steam, focus, and ultimately becomes a rather sophomoric attempt in storytelling.

The Ridge isn’t short of important elements – a dangerous mountain, loyal friends and strangers willing to risk their lives in inclement weather for a dying man – but the directors make several grievous errors in structure and focus which transform the film into a meandering, uneven tribute.

The first involves holding back on Inaki’ fate until the very end – a strategy probably intended to build an unnerving sense of mystery towards what should be the film’s big emotional wallop. When a fellow climber from the original team is heard saying ‘And that was the last time I saw him’ early in the film, the mystery is pretty much over, and while one can still hope Inaki does survive his ordeal, as a central figure he becomes a mere goalpost. Worse, by saving childhood stills and Inaki’s recorded words until the very end, we learn nothing of the man beyond being a boyfriend, a loyal friend, and respected climber willing to take risks.

The presumption is the directors wanted the words of the many interview subjects to gradually reveal who the incapacitated man seen in a few stills was, and to a slight extent it works, but what occurs more than halfway into the film is a redundant iteration of the virtues of friendship: the first montage is deeply moving and exceptional, but the directors felt another two recaps culled from remaining interview footage were necessary, making the midsection talky, rambling, and unfocused. It’s after the third recap of ‘what friends are willing to do’ that the film likely loses a chunk of the audience for good.

The backstories of the rescuers are intriguing and provide vivid philosophical reasons for climbers wanting to break free from the wired world and challenge themselves by attaining physical and spiritual goals in the remote, rough spots of Nature. Aside from an attempted helicopter flight – perilous, terrifying, and vividly described by the passengers – there’s no momentum to the rescue efforts, and until the ending,there’s no dramatic payoff. (The End Credits are equally jarring, beginning not with original score recapping thematic material, but footage of a Russian military brass band playing a highly boisterous version of Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” / aka the Austin Powers song.)

There’s also the issue of desaturated video footage which may be of the failed expedition and rescue, or dramatic recreations over which a grid texture is superimposed to imply authenticity; either way, it’s packaged in a style which feels a little faux.

In a shorter hour-long form, The Ridge would’ve been a far more satisfying and concise film, but what will likely impress is not the characters, but the striking cinematography, and the superb title designs, especially the the Main + End Credits; the moving typeface which tracks the journey of the rescuers; and and the captions announcing the countries of each interviewed participant –  Canada, the U.S., Poland, Russia, and Spain – which are stamped with logo-like credits evocative of Pablo Ferro.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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