‘Scream of Stone’ Review: An Uphill Battle

Posted in The Screening Room by - May 17, 2016

Scream of Stone follows two mountain climbers who put a bet on each other to see who can get to the top of the Cerro Torre in the Argentinian Patagonia. But this very bet proves to be self-destructive to them, as they also have to deal with love triangles, journalists, and managers that wish to exploit them.

Herzog decides to play things in a very subdued way. Little or practically nothing in the film is performed with broadness or grandeur, which makes those very grand moments come off as powerful. This works perfectly for the melodramatic material, which too often does go in directions that feel contrived or forced.

Thankfully, Herzog is more interested in the inner conflicts of the characters. The rivalry between them isn’t so clear-cut. They put on a face when they are in the same room or when they have to play it up for the press, but on their own, we see the struggle. This is where the performances by Vittorio Mezzogiorno and Stefan Glowacs shine the most. Herzog distances the camera away from them, keeping them separate from other characters. This is Herzog’s way of calling us to pay attention to their struggles, and it works. But with it comes another problem; when they have to act with others, both Mezzogiorno and Glowacs hardly bring any of the same being force they have once Herzog captures them on their own.  They’re both outshined by the supporting cast of the likes of Donald Sutherland and Brad Dourif, who although they don’t get a lot to do, they have a better presence interacting with other characters without losing their personality.

One aspect of the film that works fantastically is the atmosphere. Supposedly, most of it was shot on location in the Cerro Torre, and it feels like a documentary. There are instances where I was genuinely concerned for the characters and the actors playing them as when they got into accidents, they all seemed to be very real. They do appear to be feeling the violent cold of the mountain, and because they feel it, we feel it too.

There are a lot of good things to Scream of Stone, enough to give it a recommendation. Herzog’s direction, particularly the realism that he brings to it makes the movie feel immersive. But this is a story that desperately needed better actors, and also a less contrived storyline. There is already enough believable drama at the center of the story, so creating more by throwing in love triangles just doesn’t mesh well. It doesn’t seem to be a readily recognizable Herzog film, perhaps because Herzog himself has disowned it because he wasn’t satisfied with the script. One can tell a particular separation between the material and the director, but even then Herzog puts enough of himself to create a story of adventure, rivalry, and obsession. It’s a gorgeous film, even if it doesn’t accomplish everything it set out to do.

Final Say: Watch It

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