A highlight of the "mountain film" genre
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 11/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This late German silent is very much an action and mountain-climbing disaster film, of which genre "The Holy Mountain" is probably the best remembered, and in comparison "The White Hell of Pitz Palu" probably falls short in a few areas. Firstly, there is not much of a story or plot as it revolves around three main characters who have a climbing accident, get stuck and inevitably need to be rescued. Without a doubt the action and disaster scenes (climbing walls of ice, falls and avalanches) are expertly done, and the cinematography is close to breathtaking. In fact, watching many of the scenes - beautiful melting and dripping icicles, moody clouds, glistening walls of ice and simply the rugged snow-capped mountains made me wish it could be in colour in order to be absolutely perfect. From a visual viewpoint, "The White Hell of Pitz Palu" can't be flawed, and I'm sure that anyone interested in mountaineering (or even photography of such mountains) will find this film exciting and interesting. But I'm not a mountain nor snow and ice person, and I usually prefer a good, more complex story and interesting characters, and for such viewers this film might feel rather slow and too much of the same thing. Although the orchestral musical score is new and suited to the scenes, it might not be to everyone's taste and I found it rather heavy at times - but perhaps that was the intention after all, since ominous big mountains do create that kind of mood! Nevertheless, I can see plenty of merit in other aspects of this film such as the impressive visual, photographic qualities (the picture quality is very good, by the way) and also a glimpse into the lives of the characters such as Dr Krafft who lost his wife in an earlier mountain climbing adventure, and who thereafter `haunted' the mountain, roaming around alone - until he meets a young honeymoon couple who change everything for him. The emphasis and focus in this film are not on the story or people, but rather on the physical mountain itself and above all, the forces of nature: wind, ice, storms and mere mortals staying alive in the ruthless elements. For more story and character angles with the same star (Leni Riefenstahl) and also directed by Arnold Franck, "The Holy Mountain" might still be the best of this `mountain film' genre for the general viewer.
A true glacial epic!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 01/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike Pabst, Arnold Franck has been a figure unexplainably forgotten at the moment of naming the great German filmmakers in this diamantine period, where the flame of the creativeness was directly proportional to the anguish and fears in the rest of the German citizenship.
Strongly influenced by the adventure novels of the Swiss Gustav Renker, who seemed to be possessed by the eternal conflict between the man and the nature, under the perspective of domain and constant struggle. The location photography was achieved on the snow-covered slopes of 12.000 foot high Piz Palü in the Bernina Alps of Switzerland.
The undeniable artistic and financial triumph and universal acclamation was instantaneous, specially in a historic transition where the epic seemed to be absolutely absent from all the imaginable stages; because while Brecht and Kurt Weil appealed to the cynicism and decadence state; Shostakovich and Prokoviev depicted the somber nightmare around the fist iron man and Picasso gave us his Guernica; the loyal Surrealism and Dadaism Cerberus such Chirico, Dali, Ernst and the Great Depression in North America are evident and notorious evidences the world certainly was not the best of the possible worlds.
It is easily evident the underground voltage tension and anticipation premonitory for the cloudy times to come through the avalanches, precipices and high risks to climb and conquer: As you may realize the metaphor could not be more obvious.
Go for this flawless film.
Not What I Expected.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 11/12/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Having seen and enjoyed THE HOLY MOUNTAIN some time back, I was really looking forward to seeing this film which is considered by many to be the summit of the mountain film genre. Much has been made of the fact that the renowned director G.W. Pabst (PANDORA'S BOX, DIARY OF A LOST GIRL) was brought in to co-direct along with Arnold Fanck who created the genre. It's been said that this was done at Leni Riefenstahl's insistence to try and give the film and its characters more depth. Whoever was responsible for it made a big mistake. What emerges in WHITE HELL OF PITZ PAULU is a film with an agonizingly slow first half that stops dead in its tracks whenever it tries to focus on the three principal players, a mountain guide who has lost his wife and a young couple there for a holiday. The dramatic scenes directed by Pabst are totally out of sync with the Fanck's outdoor scenes giving the impression that you're watching two different movies. The mountain footage is breathtaking as usual with the seemingly impossible camerawork bolstered by a number of airplane shots. Some of the scenes such as the recovery of bodies in an ice grotto and the rescue of the couple from a frozen ledge linger in the memory long afterwards and in fact have shown up in a number of documentaries from time to time.
The rest of the film however is a real mess and is not at all what I expected. The performances by Riefenstahl and Ernst Petersen as the young couple are suprisingly flat which I attribute to Pabst's direction as they were much more full of life in HOLY MOUNTAIN. Gustav Diesel as the mountain climber gives the type of performance that the film needs but it isn't enough. Another big problem with this version of PITZ PALU which was restored in 1998 is the score provided for it by Ashley Irwin. A lot of it sounds like bad Soviet military music that just doesn't complement the action at all like Aljoscha Zimmerman's score did for HOLY MOUNTAIN. Silent movies were never silent and the musical accompaniment can really make or break the film and this time around unfortunately it's the latter. I don't think a good score could have saved this movie but it certainly would have helped it. THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PAULU is worth seeing especially if you are interested in Leni Riefenstahl or the mountain film in general but of those available on DVD HOLY MOUNTAIN is definitely the one to see. Hopefully Riefenstahl's 1932 opus THE BLUE LIGHT will come out soon in a restored version for that is where the mountain film truly reached its peak."