Elizabeth C. Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin: Free Solo

Some words in English and then some in Danish, as the film premieres in the best Copenhagen art house cinema, Grand Teatret, that takes in many documentaries, which means publicity for the genre, press reviews in daily newspapers and an audence that is willing to buy a ticket for a documentary. Bravo for that.

If it is the right place for this film, that is, as it is launched, “a National Geographic Movie », is another question but it is good for someone like me used to creative/artistic documentaries to be challenged with a well manufactured genre film.

Here is the short description of the film taken from IMDB: “Follow Alex

Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed arguably the greatest feat in rock climbing history.” And my comments:

Is he, Alex Honnold, charismatic? No. Does he say something interesting? No. He talks in predictable clichés like “I will always prefer climbing to a Lady”, and yet he gets a Lady, a sweet girlfriend, who does what she can to bring forward an emotional side of the climber, not easy, follows his journey and is happy that he makes it, without rope… Is the film watchable, oh Yes, the cinematography is amazing, we get his journey up the rock from all kind of angles, and that is very interesting, the story includes the camera people, their discussion in how to succeed, and especially one who – as I did towards the end – turns his head away from the camera – it’s too scary to see the young man going up.

The informational side, that is always a must-be in a National Geographic movie, is well covered through interviews with Friends/ former climbers like Tommy (Caldwell) and Jimmy Chin, responsbile for the cinematographical side and an expert in climbing films. They give background for the viewer to understand this special sport, if you consider it as a sport.


”Snak om nervepirrende! ‘Free Solo’ følger verdens førende soloklatrer Alex Honnold, da han forbereder og gennemfører sit livs farligste projekt: Bestigning af verdens måske mest berømte klippevæg, El Capitan i Yosemite-naturparken i Californien. Turen går 1.000 meter lodret op ad klippevæggen – med de bare næver og uden hverken reb eller andre sikkerhedsforanstaltninger. Det er med andre ord et frygtindgydende projekt, den sympatiske Alex Honnold kaster sig ud – og sidder biografgængerne på det yderste af sæderne, så er det intet at regne imod den frygt og bæven, som løber gennem det medklatrende filmholds vener – for slet ikke at tale om kæresten, som følger med på afstand. ’Free Solo’ er allerede lovprist i øst og vest – og ikke kun i adventure-kredse, for dette er i al enkelthed en af årets stærkeste dokumentarfilm overhovedet – og en af de mest sete ditto.

NB: Originalversion uden undertekster.

Premiere torsdag d. 31. januar 2018. 

USA, 100 mins., 2018

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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