Memento: A Boulder Life Line DVD

Review by planetFear
Monday 16th October 2006
Memento is a defining film for climbing movies. Not simply because of the difficulty of the problems sent, or the beauty of the locations, or the climbers highlighted. Memento will be seen as a film that changed the way climbing is shot.

The opening scenes set the standard for the rest of the film as we see Bernd Zangrel crimp down on some very small holds. It’s through the quite stunning hi-definition camera work and direction that you can physically see how tiny they are. Now, in many climbing films we see difficult moves, hard grades and awe-inspiring lines but in Memento, you get to see the true difficulty in these problems as the camera frames the soooo tiny holds that Zngrel pulls on.

Star of the show

The main star of the film is Bernd Zangrel. Many UK climbers may not know him but he is undoubtedly one of the world’s strongest boulderers. He came to attention a few years go with his ascent of New Base Line - one of the world’s first V15’s.

Memento highlights a number of Bernd’s favourite areas and some of his hardest problems to date. It’s not all Bernd, there’s also some climbing from his (very strong) wife Barbara and some of his friends but Bernd is the main focus, also providing the voiceover for the film.

There is another star of the film but he is behind the camera. The director, Gerald Salima, uses the camera and the surroundings to bring to life Bernd’s ascents. The hi-definition camera and the innovative use of a camera boom makes a huge difference to a film that could easily have passed by as just another bouldering film.

The camera work is truly stunning and the use of the boom as it follows Bernd from the ground to the top in one continuous flow is ground breaking. Over the next few years, it is certain that this technique will be come the norm for climbing movies. Indeed, our own innovative Alastair Lee has already experimented with it in the last few months with some success (see

Too much of a good thing...

As stated before, the director does indeed help break ground with the techniques used; but, with any good thing, it can be over used. Salima sometimes overdoes it with the film nearly crossing over into the ‘music video territory’ with some far too neatly choreographed scenes (walking through alpine villages, standing on top of boulders looking into the distance etc.)

There’s also a couple of other annoying things about the movie. Bernd is in constant voiceover and at times, his philosophical musings get just too much. Some of what he says is very interesting but some of it borders on the ‘head too far up his own…’. Also the very, very obvious product placements, leave you in no doubt about who his sponsors are.

Watching this there is no doubt that Bernd is one of the world’s strongest climbers. He climbs some very impressive lines including his ground breaking New Base Line and the title’s Memento. Another V15/V16 that will no doubt leave you gawping at the difficulty. He also likes his highballs with some very high ascents (and falls) that are higher than most gritstone solos.

Areas covered include Ticino, Magic Wood and the less known Silvretta mountains. All are caught beautifully by the excellent camerawork and Ticino in particular hs made it onto my list of must visits.

In summary, Memento will certainly set a standard for future climbing films through its camera work and editing. The climbing is pretty damn good as well. It has its flaws but overall this is a film to see for some stunning climbing and some fantastic camerawork.

Like: Climbing, camera work, excellent soundtrack, editing, locations

Dislike: The sometimes overdone ‘music video-ish’ choreography. Bernd’s philosophical musings.

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