To The Limit 0+

(Am Limit), Pepe Danquart, D 2007, German / English subtitles, 97 min

Two brothers have a common goal: to become record breaking speed-climbers. Filmmaker Pepe Danquart accompanies brothers Alexander and Thomas Huber on their endeavour in the awesome landscape of Yosemite National Park. Yet the film is, in fact, less about records and more about pushing the boundaries of one’s own limits.

Alexander and Thomas Huber practise climbing as a competitive sport; their ascents constantly bring them “to the limit” of what is physically possible. The two speed climbers form a two-man rope team, negotiating the almost vertical faces in breath-taking speed. In Bavaria they are known as “Huberbuam” (the “Huber Boys”); in the climbing world they’re also simply referred to as “The Brothers”. Director Pepe Danquart not only films the Huber brothers’ (failed) record attempt in California, but also talks to them about what motivates them to climb, the dangers involved, and life. The spectacular hook of “To The Limit”, the third part of Danquart’s sports trilogy, is the brothers’ attempt to break the climbing speed record of the Nose, the most famous climbing route in the world. The setting: Yosemite National Park in the United States, with its 1000-metre high towering rock face, “El Capitán”.

“To The Limit” can be looked upon as an “extreme sports film” among many others, including films made about surfers, paragliders and snowboarders. It offers fast-paced images, out-of-this-world landscapes and cool athletes. The film presents two sportsmen who meticulously plan every last detail and complete several practice climbs of their route during training, as they know that any error may be fatal. Yet Danquart introduces an additional perspective: he, the filmmaker, has a twin brother who became a director, just as he did. Hence the film is driven not only by the fascination for climbing, but also by its ability to provide insight into the complex array of emotions between two brothers who should, in fact, also be opponents when it comes to sporting competitions. Speed climbing binds them as a single rope team known as “Huberbuam”, a catchy label with promotional appeal. Being a team, they triumph or fail together. “To The Limit” shows the relationship between two brothers whose symbiotic actions on the mountain resemble those of the cogs in an unbelievably fast piece of machinery. They can’t afford discord, yet at the same time must deal with conflicts through sport itself in order to find their own way as individuals.

“To The Limit” follows the brothers’ first two attempts to accomplish the quickest ever ascent of the Nose, the most famous climbing route in the world. On their first attempt, Alexander takes a tumble and the climb is postponed until the following year. Meanwhile, Alexander wants to chance crossing the Cerro Torre in Patagonia. The climb, which is marred by cold and unfavourable weather, highlights the years of strain and many futile attempts which mountain sportsmen have to accept if they are to have a chance of one day arriving at their personal summit. This was the case for Huberbuam in their quest to break the speed record. They had to give up twice during the filming of „To The Limit“. It was only shortly afterwards that they succeeded in breaking the phenomenal former record by three minutes.

In filming “To The Limit” Pepe Danquart hired top-class climbers as camera operators. The team fiddled with the technology until they were able to capture the spectacular scenes in the great outdoors virtually head-on. The camera crew constructed cranes and special stilts to enable them to get extremely close to the climbers and film them in motion. They installed microphones in the rock face to record the climbers’ every word and every breath. In making his third sports documentary, technical perfection was just as important to the director as the breathtaking shots, which convey both danger and fascination.

Pepe Danquart won the Bavarian Film Award for Best Director in 2008 and was nominated in the German Film Awards and the European Film Awards.

The screening is in partnership with Goethe-Institut Prague.

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