The Alpinist is a daring and successful attempt at documentary filmmaking giving us a glimpse into the rare abilities and accomplishments of a young and talented solo climber.
The nature of a solo alpinist’s quest is that of adventure into the unknown. We get a rare glimpse of that here in The Alpinist. Directed by Nick Rosen, Emmy winner for “Valley Uprising”, and Peter Mortimer of Sender Films, the film is an honest and heartfelt look at the life of a young climber eagerly seeking out the next challenge on his climbing expeditions.
At 23 years old Marc-André Leclerc is no ordinary climber. He chooses to make attempts of some of the most challenging climbs, often without ropes or chutes. Achieving what many in the sport pursue and have not claimed, Leclerc’s overall humble nature and desire to attempt and complete alpine climbs has put the spotlight on himself in the industry and the world.
Many alpinists who venture down the path of danger, daring, and solitude often find themselves in precarious situations, many of which result in an untimely demise. But the risks taken to begin, maintain, and accomplish climbing attempts are often an inherent part of the sport.
Leclerc is a rare talent that takes those risks in stride, seeks out unique quests, and musters up the drive to push through some of the most astounding climbs.
Leclerc often attempts to climb various terrains and obstacles regardless of the season and type of terrain, often mixing elements together in the same climb. In a breathtaking shot, the filmmakers capture LeClerc climbing a frozen waterfall thousands of feet in the air with no safety lines and only the top of the waterfall holding the ice on the side of the mountain.
The question of documenting such extraordinary feats is surely a desirable quest for any filmmaker, but what happens when the subject you are trying to film, is not only one of the most talented alpinists of all time but also desires to remain unseen? Lecrlec’s free nature and desire to experience the climbs solo has presented this scenario in the film where the filmmakers marvel upon hearing about Leclerc’s accomplishments through social media but are somewhat stupified by the fact that the climbing star has distanced himself from these documentarians in a quest to remain true to the solo climbing experience. In a world where it seems like everything has or has to be documented, It is understandable why and how Leclerc desires to maintain a sense of animality in his climbs and attempts it only to actually accomplish the feat of climbing solo.
So Leclerc’s free nature meant the videographers would attempt to track him down as the anticipation of what Leclerc would possibly attempt to climb made that pursuit worthwhile for the videographers. As Leclerc continued to climb solo and claimed even more technical climbs in remote areas, the videographers eventually located him again. He was in Canada with Brette Harrington, his girlfriend, who is also an accomplished alpinist, as he was continuing to do impressive climbs.
His girlfriend Brette coyly says “Andre isn’t interested in movies, cause he’s too busy climbing”. This is perhaps a discovery point for the audience but is clearly an indisputable fact for the documentarians from day one. Leclerc appears to be, on screen, a bit reluctant to claim his accomplishments, deeming them more valuable when kept private.
As the “firsts” add up in Leclerc’s catalog of climbs, his Canadian origins are explored. Having a loving environment that fostered his outdoor abilities took some time to come to fruition. Starting out seriously climbing in his teens, Leclerc was dedicated early on and cemented a passion for the technically challenging climbs he would later do. Leclerc’s lovely metaphors of his quest to “sprout wings and feel free moving unencumbered across the mountains” are clearly realized giving the viewer a greater understanding of what drives him to this level of the elite sport.
And as if to read the viewer’s minds, other alpinists present the history, their experiences, and the interpretation of a layman’s idea of what this sport means and how the risks taken, are often censured.
While presenting this alternate view of adventuring and other unique climbing behaviors, the film does create a degree of common ground that highlights the beauty of the quest along with the concerns of those that care about this very young climber.
The Alpinist opens in U.S. theatres on September 10, 2021.