Meru

Meru

2015, R, 87 min. Directed by Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 4, 2015

A remarkable documentary in its own right, the affecting Meru recounts the efforts of three American mountain climbers on two separate occasions (the first in 2008, the second in 2011) to ascend the harsh Mt. Meru Peak in northern India. Known as the Shark Fin, the mountain’s aptly named peak had proven insurmountable for most skilled mountaineers, an elusive Holy Grail in the world of big rocks. Two experienced and professionally connected climbing veterans, Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin, and a younger, less-seasoned climber, Renan Ozturk, comprised the team. Ozturk’s responsibilities entailed shooting film footage of the two expeditions, providing a valuable service for this fairly personalized film about the trust that’s built through friendship and how that bond can survive adversity. The three men’s individual and joint stories wondrously unfold, sometimes catching you off-guard with a couple of surprising turns that provide the movie with meatier drama than you might anticipate at the outset. (Think maybe Hands on a Hard Body or The King of Kong.) Getting to the top of the world isn’t easy, not to mention further complications that stack the odds against the ambitious trio.

By the looks of the credits, Meru is a family affair and group effort, meaning that most of the people affected by the two treks participated in the making of this film. (Some also double as talking heads, giving their on-camera perspectives regarding narrative elements.) That might explain why the movie hits you on a gut level, given that the participants had something at stake, something to lose. Ozturk’s cinematography is often spectacular, capturing breathtaking moments of snowy eloquence, and intimate ones of climbers performing tasks while dangling aside a mountain or from other places unthinkable for most of us.

For most of us, it’s difficult to fathom why any sane person would risk his or her life to navigate crevices and footholds or rappel down a sheer cliff, all for the glory of achieving another pinnacle, both literal and figurative. Meru sheds some light on the ascenders’ fascination with the dangerous art of mountain climbing, though you will be dumbfounded by the choices of one, maybe two, of the team’s members when deciding whether to join the second expedition. (Suffice it to say: Snow and mountains can be a dangerous combination.) Undoubtedly, the reason is as plain as George Mallory’s comment: Because it’s there, because it’s there.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Films
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
America's favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, revealed as even kinder than you hoped.

Kimberley Jones, June 15, 2018

Breath
Australian surfer dudes come of age in this literary adaptation.

Steve Davis, June 15, 2018

More by Steve Davis
The Seagull
Chekhov's tale of Muscovite misery takes unsteady flight.

June 1, 2018

Show Dogs
Unfunny canine buddy-cop comedy is no man's best friend.

May 25, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Meru, Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle