Meru (2015)
April 16, 2019 12:00 AM - Subscribe

Three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan big wall climbing.

From Wikipedia: After attempting but failing to summit Meru in 2008, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk return to the mountain in order to conquer its peak – a 4,000 foot wall known as the "Shark's Fin". As they climb, the men also document their ascent. "You know, I'm always a climber first," said Chin on balancing climbing with filmmaking. "I'm always thinking about the safety of myself and the team. And I make that evaluation before I take the camera out."[2] The film is a mixture of footage that chronicles both attempts (the failed 2008 and the successful 2011) while crafting a narrative about the climbers' attempts to face their demons. After suffering a horrific accident while filming on location with Chin, Ozturk has a mere five months to recover before their second attempt, battling near-fatal injuries. Four days after Ozturk's accident, Chin returns to the filming location to finish but is caught in a catastrophic avalanche that he miraculously survives with barely a scratch. Anker wrestles with bringing his mentor's dream to fruition and the loss of both him and his climbing partner many years ago.

NPR Interview: "We had been climbing for 17 or 18 days at that point. And we had only brought seven days of food. ... Conrad ... my very good friend and mentor, he knew that the next pitch to get to the top was going to take three, four, five hours, and we had already been out for 15, 16 hours. So it would mean that we would have to spend the night out, at over 20,000 feet.

The stakes were too high and the risks were too high. And there was this one moment where Conrad dropped an ice ax. I'd never seen him make a mistake like that before. And we just watched it bounce down and off into the void. And it was the sign. And we were like, "OK. It's done. We're out." ...

It's heartbreaking, but, you know, you have to set aside your emotional kind of side. But you learn to do that, and you turn around so that you can come back another day."

Linda Barnard: "In either case, visual feast Meru, winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Audience Award, satisfies these curiosities.

Climbers Jimmy Chin (co-director of the doc with wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi), Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk aimed to be the first to conquer Meru’s punishing Shark’s Fin face, a route on the Himalayan peak considered by many impossible to climb.

Using lightweight cameras, Chin and Ozturk capture both the astonishing views from the top of the world and soul-searching moments inside a cramped tent dangling from the side of the mountain like a used tea bag."

Richard Roeper
:"This is a nomination-worthy piece of filmmaking, co-directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the latter one of the three men who used GoPro cameras to chronicle their attempts to scale Meru. (There’s no way on God’s Earth any film crew would be able to accompany these maniacs on this journey.)

The photography, including some gorgeous long shots presumably shot with more sophisticated equipment, is remarkable. This is one of the most beautiful and one of the most frightening movies of any kind this year.

Front and center in the story is one Conrad Anker, one of the most famous climbers in the world for many a year. (It was Anker who discovered the body of George Mallory on Everest some 75 years after Mallory disappeared.) A commanding, charismatic presence, Anker is something of a legend in the climbing community — but along with his myriad triumphs, he has lost two friends to dangerous expeditions, and there’s a soap opera element to his personal life which we’ll leave to the film to explain."

posted by Carillon (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a great time for climbing movies. Dawn Wall , Free Solo, Meru and a few others have been cropping up on netflix and hulu over the past 6 months.
These guys are legends. Even the simplest things that they do, like hauling all of that gear at those altitudes, is beyond what most recreational hikers or climbers will ever do, and yet they make it all seem so routine. such drive and focus are inspiring. I've followed Anker for years, and Chin's filmmaking is first rate. i enjoyed this.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:30 PM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

It was not in Ozturk's best interests to go back, proven when he had a stroke. The doc makes clear that he lied to his partner about returning and that Chin and Anker enabled him, which made me furious.
posted by brujita at 11:17 AM on April 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi also co-directed Free Solo, winner this year of Best Documentary from both Oscar and BAFTA.
posted by Homer42 at 11:37 PM on April 23, 2019

I just watched Dawn Wall and Meru back-to-back. Can recommend. I loved Free Solo and the kind of background nihilism that permeated it, but these two were just awesome, life-affirming stories.

And yes, Ozturk's going back was not the greatest move ever.
posted by nevercalm at 9:31 AM on June 2, 2019

> The doc makes clear that he lied to his partner about returning and that Chin and Anker enabled him, which made me furious

I thought they all came across as self-centered assholes in this, even though they made it themselves. One of them promises his wife he won't do any more big climbs and then does more big climbs. One buys a plane ticket before telling his girlfriend. I don't believe in the "I'm doing this to honor so-and-so" aspect -- they're doing it for themselves and for no other reason (which is fine, but be honest about it). They're risking death and leaving behind children and other people who love them.

I was curious how they filmed the bits showing them from a distance. Was there a second crew, far away?

I was surprised by the smoking.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:05 PM on March 13, 2023

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