Meru, film review: ‘Awe-inspiring’

Meru Expedition, Garwhal, India. Picture: Jimmy Chin

Meru Expedition, Garwhal, India. Picture: Jimmy Chin - Credit: Archant

This documentary following three climbers trying to conquer the Meru Peak offers a wider look at the supercharged tedium of mountain climbing, says Michael Joyce.

Directors: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi Starring: Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, Jon Krakauer, Grace Chin and Jennifer Lowe-Anker Film Length: 90 mins

Though I’m not much interested in mountain climbing, Touching The Void, the documentary about two British climbers’ desperate struggle for survival after disaster hits during an expedition in South America, is one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. It says something fundamental and humbling about what it is to be human. Meru is about three climbers, Anker, Chin and Ozturk, and their obsession with becoming the first people to conquer the notoriously difficult Shark’s Fin peak of the titular Himalayan mountain. It doesn’t say much about being human but it says a lot about being a mountain climber, and the supercharged tedium of mountain climbing.

Climbing unclimbed mountains is one thing; filming yourself climbing unclimbed mountains is quite another. Chin and Ozturk have done wonders in capturing both the awe-inspiring spectacle of clinging to life 20,000 feet in the air but also the drab mundanities that you need to endure – huddling up in a tent, heating up food, carrying the supplies.

The film is much more than just a climbing procedural; it offers a wider look at the mountain climbing world and the back stories of these three men. It reveals the day-to-day practicalities of mountain climbing, but the mountaineers themselves remain largely unknowable. Why do people with homes and loving families risk it all for this narcissistic pursuit? Other than being incredibly uncomfortable, painful and harsh, climbing is inordinately dull. They move so slowly, carefully testing each ledge and foothold before every single step because every little step could kill them. It’s like a Russian roulette version of being a stop motion animator.


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Rating: 4/5 stars

MERU is out in cinemas via ourscreen and on digital download from February 12, and is available on DVD & Blu-Ray from March 7.

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