Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is practicing for the reviewing speed record.
"The knowledge that things that seem impossible are actually feasible gives you a sense of hope."
"Believe it or not, there are people in this world who like to climb on all these rocks," a guide at Yosemite National Park tells a busload of tourists early in To the Limit (Am Limit in the original German).
Two such people are Alexander and Thomas Huber, brothers from Germany. They plan to climb the Nose, the cliff face of El Capitan, "Yosemite's mightiest wall." What's more, they plan to do it in a hurry—under two-and-a-half hours—to set a new record. To do that, they've got to practice, climbing over and over again, getting a little faster each time.
Director Pepe Danquart rounds out his "sports trilogy," which included Home Game, about hockey, and Hell On Wheels, about the Tour de France. "I had an interest in making a film purely about climbing. I wanted to show the Huber boys['] personalities and use their climbing as a metaphor for life," he says of To the Limit in production notes on the DVD release.
Much of To the Limit shows the Hubers climbing—both in Yosemite and in Patagonia—but those climbing sequences take the form of montage, with an almost dreamlike feeling to them. One montage even is a dream sequence, representing Thomas' nightmares about falling. The visuals are splendid, not only in close shots of the climbers, but in panoramic shots of the mountains, valleys, and water that make up the Hubers' workspace. As they prepare meticulously for the big climb, the pair talks about what climbing means to them in a mix of English and German (with English subtitles). They discuss their fears, living life to the fullest, and brotherly rivalry.
The main extra is a short but much-appreciated epilogue that brings viewers up to speed on the Hubers' accomplishments. Text production notes and biographies are also included. A photo gallery has a few good photos, but could use more.
I didn't like the nightmare sequence, which was a little over the top (pun intended) for a documentary. I also was annoyed at times by subtitles that didn't indicate who was talking, since it was occasionally tricky to distinguish the brothers' voices in German.
For the most part, though, To the Limit works, even providing some
insights that could help you through rough times that don't involve dangling
from mountains. Not guilty.
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