There’s like eight kerbillion tons of drama in Meru

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo


RPL Film Theatre
October 15-18
3.5 out of 5

These days, “conquering” Mount Everest is more a matter of money than skill, and there are very few corners of the world that remain unexplored. Because of that, Meru is quite refreshing — for documentary fans and adventure-lovers alike.

A mountain in the Indian Himalayas, Meru Peak features a borderline-impossible obstacle for climbers aiming for the summit: A smooth, 4000-foot wall known as “Shark’s Fin.” There’s little to grab on to, it takes a very long time to progress just a few hundred metres, and even setting up camp is a feat of Herculean proportions. Add in treacherous weather and limited human endurance and you have a helluva challenge.

Meru chronicles two attempts — both by Conrad Anker (the climber who found English mountaineer George Mallory’s body on Everest), regular collaborator Jimmy Chin (who also directs the film) and relative newcomer Renan Ozturk.

As we see them push themselves beyond any sensible threshold, the audience is treated to snippets of their lives at home. That cliché of “the mountain is calling” becomes real when we see these three well-adjusted guys hankering to trade the comforts of home for a cramped tent that’s hanging by a thread.

The documentary features remarkable imagery, and a dramatic twist of fate that further raises the stakes. I could’ve used a little less “climber mystique” and a bit more texture in the depiction of their lives (there are some red flags that go unaddressed). But for the most part, Meru is raw and fascinating. Harrowing drama emerging organically from extreme situations is a rare sight, and Meru provides it in spades.

The answer to whether Anker, Chin and Ozturk succeeded in their quest is just a click away. But I’d recommend staying away from Google until after you watch the film. It’s so much better not knowing.