Because it’s There
The 2015 documentary Meru tells the story of Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk’s attempts to climb the “Shark’s Fin” route on Meru Peak. Meru, along with the more well-known peaks of Mt. Everest and K2, is located in the Indian Himalayas. The difference between Meru and Everest however, is that Meru is a much tougher climb that requires more skill than Everest, even though it is a smaller mountain.
The film follows the three men beginning in 2008, and ends in 2011. In their 2008 attempt, a harsh blizzard assaults the team for several days, thus putting them in a dire predicament as far as supplies go. They eventually have to turn back with the peak within striking distance due to fatigue, frostbite, and lack of provisions.
The three go back to their normal lives, which all still involve the sport of climbing in one way, shape, or form, but the failure to peak nags at all of them. Anker keeps in touch with another climber who also attempts to climb the “Shark’s Fin” and fails. After this failure, he decides that it is time to try the route again. The twists the movie takes after this are almost unbelievable, were it not for it all being true.
Meru is one of the better documentaries I’ve seen in a while, and one of the better climbing movies I’ve ever watched (and I watch about any that come out). The great thing about this one is that I just knew the very basics of the story, so I was as surprised at some of the events in the film as the people involved in the production. I really don’t want to spoil anything so I will keep most of it to myself, but I will say that these guys really wanted to climb this mountain.
Meru also gives the audience a different kind of viewing experience compared to a lot of the other mountaineering movies. Due to Everest being the Disney World of mountains at this point, most modern snapshots of mountain climbing come from the various documentaries and books covering it. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a movie following just a few people, using mostly Go Pro type cameras, as they attempt something most people will only imagine. Even if mountain climbing is of no interest to someone, Meru is worth it just for some of the visuals.
The film was co-directed by Chin (a photographer by trade) and his now wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. The pair were not involved at the time of filming, and Vasarhelyi (director of Incorruptible and Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love) actually came in to help after the footage had been shot. I wonder how she views the film now that they are married, as opposed to watching the film from an outsiders perspective. There is some harrowing footage in the film that put me ill at ease, so I can only imagine what it must be like for the families and friends of the climbers.
Overall, Meru is a really good documentary about a subject that interests me, but even if you have no clue about mountain climbing, it is still worth your time. It is an enthralling story about people who have a goal and will stop at nothing to achieve it, even if that goal is something that most people might have trouble understanding. Anker, Chin, and Ozturk can be called a lot of things, but “quitter” isn’t one of them. Just about everything that could go wrong does at some point for these three men, yet they stay motivated and stick to their plan. Do they make it to the top? You’ll just have to watch the movie for yourself and find out.
Meru actually screened at The Chattanooga Film Festival in April but I wasn’t able to catch it there. It is, however, available on Amazon Prime, so over the long weekend I finally got around giving it a whirl. If you have a Prime membership then check it out, otherwise it is also available to rent and is probably on most On Demand services. You can thank me later.
Until next time…