Roped Up, a magnificent adventure in search of a utopic release
- Through his latest film presented in the Grand Angle section at Visions du Réel, Frédéric Favre engages in another extreme cinematographic exercise, to the point of exhaustion
Loyal to a festival he’s particularly attached to (Cyclic had its debut at Nyon), it was at Visions du Réel (in the Grand Angle section) that Swiss director Frédéric Favre decided to present his latest film Roped Up [+see also:
film profile]. A majestic and mysterious film that audiences at Nyon had the pleasure of seeing the premiere of for free.
Roped Up is a film that recalls the majesty of the tales of great adventurers of the likes of Cousteau, but its protagonists (apparently) have nothing legendary or heroic about them. Divided into three mixed teams of three, Frédéric Favre’s heroes are preparing to face the biggest adventure of their lives: the Patrouille des glaciers, the hardest mountain race in existence (originally reserved for military professionals). No fewer than 53 kilometers long, stretching from Zermatt a Verbier, the “grande patrouille” (different from the “petite patrouille”, which starts in Arolla and ends up in Verbier) is for many a challenge of almost legendary status, an objective that transcends the “here and now” to touch on the absolute. Having participated in the race himself on no fewer than three occasions, Frédéric Favre knows better than anyone what is at stake. His performance as a director, because this is a true performance, a trusty companion who transcribes into images not only the majestic alpine setting but also and above all the mysterious psychological landscapes of the protagonists (their anxieties, their personal objectives), makes him a character himself. In this sense, the Roped Up team becomes the fourth team ready to take on the enigmatic Valais Alps.
Beyond the undeniable sporting dimension of the film with the story of the meticulous and almost monastic preparations, as the film progresses, it is the human and psychological dimension of each of the protagonists that gradually comes to the fore. What are the real reasons these people are putting themselves through such physical torture? Through the pensive, majestic and silent images of the competitors as they grapple with the forces of nature, their anxieties burst free, like footprints in light but dangerous snow. Each of them is driven by different reasons: one of them is looking to reconnect with their late mountaineer father, one is trying to prove to themselves that they can do something great despite their inglorious past, and one of them needs to lose themselves in the effort of doing something extreme, the protagonists of Roped Up literally fight for their lives, finding continuity in an unsteady trajectory. Without revealing more than what words are capable of expressing, it is through close observation of the characters’ actions that Frédéric Favre transcribes their deepest anxieties, turning their performance into a necessary catharsis. Like any extreme solution, this is not without its risks, above all that, as the youngest adventurer explicitly states (fully aware), the risk of no longer being able to “tolerate” the “real” world, an everyday routine that suddenly and disturbingly seems banal. The majestic images transcribed by the director become the metaphor for birth: from the dark abyss of a mountainous uterus, protective yet frightening, to the light of a magnificent yet distressing future. Who will be able to carry on afterwards with just the adventure of their own lives?
(Translated from Italian)
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