Friday, January 04, 2008


Another German Mountain film, its romance plot not far removed from THE HOLY MOUNTAIN. Hannes (Sepp Rist) is a weatherman who spends months at a time in an isolated mountain weather observation cabin, taking temperature and wind speed readings and relaying them through wireless radio by Morse code to an observatory down in the valley, manned by an astronomer and his daughter Hella (Leni Riefenstahl). Hella and Hannes have never met, but one day near Christmas, on a whim, she hitches a ride with pilot Ernst Udet (playing himself) and drops a mini-Christmas tree down to him from the sky. A couple days later, Hella and her father head up the mountain for a holiday visit that turns tragic when dad dies in a hiking accident. When Hella leaves, Hannes tells her that if she's feeling lonely, she should visit Peterson (Mathias Wieman), a musician friend of his. She does, finds that he's ill, and nurses him back to health. Soon Peterson writes to Hannes to tell him that he hopes to marry Hella; this leaves Hannes distraught and he declines to come off the mountain when his relief weatherman arrives. During a storm, Hannes loses his gloves and gets a bad case of frostbite on his hands. He cannot light matches to start the fire that would normally keep his cabin warm, so he tires to ski (with no poles) down the mountain. Unknown to him, a crucial bridge has crumbled so just as a storm hits, he has to trek back up to the cabin where, in the meantime, the door has blown off and ice and snow have covered everything. Hannes does manage to send an SOS, but will Hella and Ernst arrive in time? As usual with films of this genre, the strengths are not acting (fair) or plot (loopholes and missing information galore) or character (none are particularly well developed), but the mountain action. A frivolous scene early on which shows Hella playfully meddling in a ski race, in which she actually changes clothes with a male skier, is perhaps the best ski scene I've seen on film--not that I gravitate toward a lot of movies with skiing. The storm sequences in the last half-hour are very well done, and I was gasping frequently during the shots of Hannes trying to navigate the mountain without ski poles. Even the scenes inside the snowswept cabin, which were probably done in a studio, are superb. The handsome Rist makes a fine hero and, as usual, Riefenstahl is a little wooden. [DVD]

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