Free Solo

11 Nov

FREE SOLO—directed by Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. SportsDoc. 10 minutes Color 2018
THE STORY: Bare handed, without ropes, Alex Honnold climbs 3000 feet cliff El Capitain in Yosemite.
What’s surprising and even more daring is the thoroughness of the preparation Honnold makes about the face of the mountains he scales. Inch by inch, handhold by handhold, minute ledge by ledge, he has looked at the bare, steep face of these cliffs and precipices, and knows their biography by heart before he takes a single tread.

Wonderful things: of course, how perfectly his face takes the camera. Then the drones which film him from angles no camera could achieve without them. Then the simplicity and lack of glamour of his non-climbing life, for he seems to be living out of a van.

Finally, on the negative side, is the dreadful presence and intrusion of his girlfriend. Poor thing. It’s clear she does not love him, because she wants him to love her more than he loves his calling, and why should he? It would be immoral. The care, attention, common sense, and gentleness with which his male team and film crew treat him is more loving than her nagging. She doesn’t mean to, but she wants to drag him down. She simply hasn’t a clue. Or rather, she seems to be driven by an understandable but irrelevant urge to domesticity which is not only out of place and dangerous but makes her look shamefully self-serving. One longs for her to go away; eventually she does.

She wants an embrace closer to his body than his body must embrace the side of a cliff. And we wonder how he does it. His two strong thumbs and the purchase on tiny ridges by the thin rims of two sneakers are all that hold him and move him up the vertical. And cleave him to it when he looks to be upside down.

The spectacle of his climbing leaves one agog.

And gravity speechless.

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Posted in BIODOC, Sports Documentary

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