North Face (film)

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North Face
North Face (film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhilipp Stölzl
Produced byBoris Schönfelder
Danny Krausz
Benjamin Herrmann
Written byChristoph Silber
Rupert Henning
Johannes Naber
Philipp Stölzl
StarringBenno Fürmann
Florian Lukas
Johanna Wokalek
Ulrich Tukur
Music byChristian Kolonovits
CinematographyKolja Brandt
Edited bySven Budelmann
Release date
  • 9 October 2008 (2008-10-09) (Switzerland)
  • 23 October 2008 (2008-10-23) (Germany)
  • 24 October 2008 (2008-10-24) (Austria)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryGermany, Austria, Switzerland

North Face (German: Nordwand) is a 2008 German historical fiction film directed by Philipp Stölzl and starring Benno Fürmann, Florian Lukas, Johanna Wokalek, and Ulrich Tukur. Based on the famous 1936 attempt to climb the Eiger north face, the film is about two German climbers involved in a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps.[1]


The movie portrays an attempt in 1936 to summit the Eiger via the north face, the last major unclimbed Alpine face, by two competing teams. The more prominently featured pair are German climbers Toni Kurz (Fürmann) and Andi Hinterstoisser (Lukas). The ascent is covered by the fictional novice journalist Louise (Wokalek) and her cynical editor from a Berlin newspaper.

Toni, Andi and Louise are childhood friends from Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. The boys have joined the German army and are successful amateur climbers and, hearing other teams are making an attempt on the Eiger north face, decide to compete to make the ascent. After being refused leave from the German army (falsely claiming one of them is getting married and the other is to be Best Man), they quit their service in order to make the attempt. They are portrayed as being more interested in mountaineering than politics. The competing team of Austrians are portrayed as hoping for a Nazi-led incorporation of Austria into Germany.

Louise's superiors see a media opportunity and send her editor along with her as a photographer to cover the ascent by the German pair. Having no money, Kurz and Hinterstoisser travel to the Bernese Alps on bicycles and share a tent, while the reporting pair lodge in the luxurious hotel at Kleine Scheidegg. Competing French and Italian climbers assess the conditions and decide to abort their attempt, leaving the German and Austrian teams. Once both pairs start their climb, the observers below watch as the climbers risk their lives in a series of catastrophic incidents. The teams are forced to join together to survive and descent to safety.

The story of the climb follows the historical narrative of the actual 1936 Eiger North Face climbing disaster. A rescue team reaches within metres to save the last climber alive but a knot tying two short ropes together cannot pass through his carabiner and Kurz dies within earshot of Louise. Distraught at losing her best friends, particularly Toni, to whom she is romantically attached, and repelled by the editor's cynicism, Lousie resigns her job and the film ends with her working as a professional photographer in postwar New York.


  • Benno Fürmann as Toni Kurz
  • Johanna Wokalek as Luise Fellner
  • Florian Lukas as Andreas Hinterstoisser
  • Simon Schwarz as Willy Angerer
  • Georg Friedrich as Edi Rainer
  • Ulrich Tukur as Henry Arau
  • Erwin Steinhauer as Emil Landauer
  • Branko Samarovski as Albert von Allmen
  • Petra Morzé as Elisabeth Landauer
  • Hanspeter Müller as Hans Schlunegger
  • Peter Zumstein as Adolf Rubi
  • Martin Schick as Christian Rubi
  • Erni Mangold as Grossmutter Kurz
  • Johannes Thanheiser as Grossvater Kurz
  • Arnd Schimkat as Hotelbesitzer
  • Klaus Ofczarek as Redaktionsleiter
  • Martin Brambach as Redakteur Henze
  • Peter Faerber as Spiess
  • Tobias Ofenbauer as Reporter
  • Hartmut Scheyhing as Reporter
  • Maximilian Pfnür as Wache
  • Gerhard Greiner as SS Mann Erlberger
  • Hassan Athman as Jazzmusiker
  • Nero Pietra as Italienische Seilschaft
  • Stefan Steurer as Italienische Seilschaft
  • Mark Geisseler as Französische Seilschaft
  • Matthias Roduner as Französische Seilschaft
  • Traute Hoess as Anna Fellner (uncredited)[2]


Eiger North Face, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
Filming locations


Critical response

After a successful theatrical run in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, the film was released in several non-German speaking countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan from 2009-2010, receiving favorable reviews throughout.[4]

Awards and nominations
  • 2009 German Film Award in Gold for Best Cinematography (Kolja Brandt)
  • 2009 German Film Award in Gold for Best Sound (Heinz Ebner, Guido Zettier, Christian Bischoff, Tschangis Chahrokh)
  • 2009 German Film Award in Gold Nomination for Best Production Design (Udo Kramer)
  • 2009 German Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography (Kolja Brandt)
  • 2009 German Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay (Philipp Stölzl, Christoph Silber, Rupert Henning, Johannes Naber)
  • 2009 Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award Nomination for Best Sound Editing - Foreign Feature (Alexander Buck, Carsten Richter, Alexander Vitt, Guido Zettier, Tobias Poppe)[5]

Historical elements of the plot[edit]

  • German government publicity did draw attention to German and Austrian mountaineering, and to climbing the North Face in particular, as matters of German national and ethnic pride.
  • The names and nationalities of the members of the historical single team of four who set out to attempt the ascent together correspond to those of the members of the two fictional teams.
  • Like the fictional Andi and Toni, the historical Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz did have a shared association with Berchtesgaden, having, two years before their deaths, established a route together on the Berchtesgadener Hochthron.
  • The route of the historical team is essentially as portrayed in the film.
  • The rope that Hinterstoisser placed on the Hinterstoisser Traverse, and was used by the others to cross, was removed before the last team member continued upward.
  • When recovered, the corpse of one of the Austrian climbers showed he had been bandaged for a head wound.
  • During the descent Andi did attempt to cross the area known as Hinterstoisser Traverse using the pendulum traverse, as he had the ascent, and gave up when he realised his efforts were futile. (Even though the scene in the movie is short, Andi tried for hours but to no avail)
  • A rope supporting two climbers was cut
    • to move forward with the attempt at rescue (rather than in crisis of the next seconds or few minutes),
    • below the climber doing the cutting (rather by one of climbers dropping as a result),
    • on instructions from the rescuers, and
    • after the two appeared beyond communicating or helping in their own rescue.
  • After the avalanche, Kurz:
    • was the only team member with hope for survival,
    • had lost a glove and found the corresponding arm stiff and useless,
    • communicated with would-be rescuers at the tunnel "window",
    • unravelled a rope using teeth and one hand over the course of five hours, producing a longer cord which he lowered so an additional rope could be tied to it and sent up for the rest of his descent,
  • Anschluss between Germany and Austria had substantial public support in Austria, and was effected in 1938.[6]


  1. ^ "North Face". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Full cast and crew for North Face". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  3. ^ "Filming locations for North Face". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  4. ^ "North Face". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Awards for North Face". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  6. ^ Nordwand – North Face by All About War Movies (2012)

External links[edit]