search

Meru

Meru

To dedicated mountaineers, an unconquered — and believed unconquerable — peak is an irresistible, insistent taunt on their to-do lists. “Meru” is the story of one such peak, the notorious Shark’s Fin atop Mount Meru in India and the pea beneath the mattress of the climber Conrad Anker.

Blindingly beautiful and meticulously assembled by the award-winning editor Bob Eisenhardt, “Meru” easily makes you forget that what you are watching is completely bananas. Having failed to reach the summit in 2003, Mr. Anker returned in 2008, accompanied by his longtime climbing partner Jimmy Chin (who directed the film with his wife, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) and the young climber and artist Renan Ozturk.

That expedition, and a later one in 2011, bookend a middle section that’s every bit as tense as the two ascents. Yet it’s not only the near-fatal mishaps and knife-edged escapes that ultimately make “Meru” so compelling. Assisted by essential commentary from the author Jon Krakauer, the directors poke at the psychology of extremity, zeroing in on push-the-limits personalities for whom calculating risk is a way of life.

What makes a man want to haul 200 pounds of equipment more than 20,000 feet above sea level in well-below-zero temperatures? Watching Bear Grylls rappel cheerily down a cliff face doesn’t prepare us for the blizzards and avalanches, frostbite and trench foot visited on our three daredevils, all of whom brave terrifying events with enviable composure. The audience might not feel so Zen-like: When the camera places you inside a tiny tent that’s seemingly dangling in midair, listening to shards of ice batter the roof, you’ll be very glad to feel the theater seat beneath your behind.

Thankfully free of the usual triumph-of-the-will score, “Meru” is an ultrasmooth blend of conventional documentary techniques — the talking-head interview; the back-in-the-day photograph — and uncommon ambition. The immediacy and clarity of the images (Mr. Chin and Mr. Ozturk did most of the filming) is critical, capturing the grandeur of the Himalayas in shots both mystical and menacing. So when Mr. Krakauer describes the mountain’s location as “the point where heaven and earth and hell all come together,” his meaning could not be clearer.

Jenni Lowe-Anker, Mr. Anker’s wife and the widow of his mentor, Alex Lowe, understands the draw of danger so well that she didn’t plan to fall for another climber. “I still think I might’ve been better off with a cowboy,” she tells us, smiling. Some might say that’s exactly what she got.

— Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

Meru

Tue September 29, 2015, 7:30 only, Muenzinger Auditorium

USA, 2015, English, Color, 87 min, 1.78:1, R, DP • official site

recommend

Tickets

10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.

Parking

Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.

RTD Bus

Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Cover art for Spring 2 2022
Virtual titles to stream from home

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

Z-briefs
: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Sprocket Damage
: Sprocket Damage digs deep(ish) into current and classic films and film-related subjects to bring to you insightful, humorous, and enlightening perspectives on the industry.

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists