The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A note from the management and my top five mountain and trekking movies

with 23 comments

Dear customers! Dear friends, guests, readers, writers and commenters! Dear cinephiles!

It’s time for me to leave the protective darkness in the theatre and head out in the real world for a little while. During my vacation there will be very little activity here. There might be some occasional stray post that I’ve prepared, but mostly it will be quiet.

My plan for the next week is to go trekking in the Swedish mountains. So I came up with the idea to make a list post, presenting five of my favorite movies about  favourite movies about trekking, climbing and survival in the mountains.

Are you ready? Here we go!


This film is based on the true story about a rugby who crashed with an airplane in the middle of the Andes Mountains and what the few survivors went through until they finally were rescued. I read the book as a teenager, not once but several times. I don’t think it was the fact that they ended up eating from the dead bodies to survive that tickled me. It was more about the entire situation, the group dynamics and the spiritual development they went through. At two hours the film could never be as detailed as the book, but it was still a very good one.

Into the Wild
It’s often considered a matter of fact that a film that is based on a book never can be as good as the original source, provided that you read the book first. It may be true in many cases, but not for Into the Wild. I read Krakauer’s book about Christopher McCandless escape into the wilderness long before I watched the film, but while the book was OK, it couldn’t match the film in terms of being emotionally engaging. If it’s closer to the truth or not I obviously can’t say. But it has stunningly beautiful cinematography, great acting performances and a soundtrack by Eddie Vedder that I never get tired of listening to.

Touching the Void
I think I’ve read Joe Simpson’s book Touching the Void at least three times and I’ll probably read it a few more times during my lifetime. It’s more than just a survival story; he’s an extraordinary good writer as well. I already knew every step and turn he took on his way back to the camp after his partner had been forced to cut the rope due to an accident. But it’s one thing to just read the words and another thing to see the actual places on screen. The documentary was excellent.

127 Hours
The idea to make an entire movie about a guy who was stuck with his arm under a rock sounds a bit crazy. It’s not exactly cinematic. How long would it take before the viewers start to scratch themselves? But despite the challenge or maybe because of it, Danny Boyle wanted to do this. As with the rest of the survival movies, I had already read the book and like everyone else I knew how the film would end before I started to watch it. And yet I was on my edge all way through. Danny Boyle sure pulled this one off, and so did James Franco, who is excellent in the role as the climber.

The Way Back
This film begins with an escape from a camp under Stalin’s terror regime in Siberia, but after a while the bad guys tune out and it turns into a story about man vs nature as the prisoners continue on their quest to cross deserts and mountains to their destination in India. Considering the scale of it and the multitude of magnificent landscape views, I wish I had seen it in a theatre.

A source of inspiration
There’s my selection of mountain themed movies and I realize that it probably looks a bit nutty. So much darkness, misery, death and disease! How can anyone possibly get inspired to head out for trekking in the mountains after watching those films? If they have any message, it would be that you’re safer and more comfortable if you stay at home.

Buy on some level I think they give me some kind of fuel: a spark to try really hard and not give up at whatever – I’m sure – comparatively minor obstacle I might encounter during my week away.

If I get tired of the dried food I can always think that I’ve got plenty to eat compared to what they had in Alive.

If I’ll need to take off my trousers crossing a river, walking through freezing cold water, I still know that I will be able to cross it unlike what happened in Into the Wild.

If I’m unlucky and make a slip step I might hurt my wrist, but medical help will never be further away than 20 kilometres and if I break my leg someone will pick me up. I won’t have to crawl on the ground for long stretches, like Joe in Touching the Void did.

I’m in company and people know where I am. If the unlikely event would happen that all of us would get stuck under a rock, there would be people who would go looking for us.  We wouldn’t be on our own as in 127 hours. There’s no overhanging risk that I would have to cut off my own arm.

And while the way probably will feel very long at times, it’s laughable compared to the stretches covered in The Way Back.

The weather forecast says it will rain for a week, with outdoor temperatures just above the freezing point. But as soon as I think back to any of those five movies, my small nuggets of discomfort will be put into proportion. And that’s why they’re so inspirational.

And now it’s time to say goodbye. Don’t be shy while I’m gone. Help yourself! Check the fridge for leftovers and the archives for blog posts you may have missed. Have a drink in the bar and a comfortable seat and I’ll be back in no time.

See you! Cheers!


Written by Jessica

July 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm

23 Responses

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  1. Enjoy your holiday!


    July 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    • Thanks Nostra! I did! I’m not quite through yet, but popping by at home for some washing-up before I go for a trip to some relatives.


      July 21, 2012 at 10:59 am

  2. LOL Great choices. At least you know your options should things turn unfavorable. Have a wonderful vacation. Looking forward to the insights you gain and share when you return.

    Vicki Love

    July 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    • Thanks Vicki! I’m back from my mountain trip and had a great time. Now I’m off for some more holidays.


      July 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

  3. Sound like a healthy way to spend your vacation. Hence, not my cup of tea 😉 But I sincerely hope you’ll have a great time and come back all in one piece.


    July 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    • I’m in one piece although the midgets took some blood samples of me. I’ve really had a blast, despite the hardships. Or maybe thanks to them.


      July 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

  4. Have a nice trek in the mountains. I myself will also head north on Sunday but will stay in a small house, but at least we will make a one day 15 km walk.

    Btw, funny that you list mountain survival movies. I’m in the middle of a wilderness survival movie marathon and your list gave me a reminder of some movies that I overlooked.


    July 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    • I’ve caught up with your tweets and you seem to be a bit on the same line as I am when it comes to interest in spending time in the wilderness. I envy your mushroom findings!

      A wilderness survival marathon? That sounds awesome. First Star Trek and now this! We really share tastes for movies.


      July 21, 2012 at 11:03 am

  5. Everyone should see Touching The Void. Have a good time!

    Bonjour Tristesse

    July 13, 2012 at 11:24 pm

  6. Noooo where’s Cliffhanger!!!

  7. Nice post, Jessica! Hope you have fun 🙂 We’ll be waiting for your return.

    127 Hours is my favorite from your list. That one was so powerful, it had me sobbing uncontrollably.


    July 16, 2012 at 1:34 am

    • Thanks Fernando. I had a great time. I really thought 127 hours was amazingly good. I also can recommend the book, at least the parts about the events. The look-backs at previous mountain expeditions aren’t quite as captivating.


      July 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll definitely check it out if I stumble upon it.


      July 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm

  8. Have a lovely time matey!!

  9. Very interesting – In regards to Into the Wild, I found the key difference to be the “likability” of McCandless. The book makes him out to be more of a typical bullheaded young guy, but the film was less kind. While I kind of understood and sympathized for McCandless in the book, the film just made me kind of hate him.


    July 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    • Hate him? Really? Hm… I think one of the criticism against the film has been that it makes a hero out of him when he’s actually acting pretty foolishly – and egotistically in relation to his own family. If you ask me I think neither the film, nor the book does goes too far in any direction. It’s pretty balanced. He’s a young man with a lot of ideas and a willingness to change the world, but he’s also going for a project that he wasn’t prepared for and his death is not heroic in any way at all, just unnecessary. He’s not a villain, nor a saint. He just… is. A very sad and touching story about a human destiny.


      July 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

  10. Thanks for the reminder on Touching the Void. I have heard nothing but great things about it, but I keep forgetting to check it out.

    Have a great vacation!


    July 17, 2012 at 5:21 am

    • You really should watch it! I bought it cheaply at Amazon. It shouldn’t be hard to get access to it. And thank you!


      July 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

  11. If I can make a suggestion, it would be to look for a film titled Southbounders. It’s a little film mostly set and shot in my home state of Maine. It’s about a few people who are hiking the Appalachian Trail, but in the opposite direction from the norm. It’s not a “sell your possessions to be able to afford a copy you can buy online” kind of movie, but it’s a good film that’s worth your time if you happen to run across it.


    July 20, 2012 at 4:33 am

    • Oh, that sounds like a movie I should check out. Granted I live in Sweden I can’t guarantee it’s all that easy to get hold of it, but I’ll watch out for it. Thanks for the suggestion!


      July 21, 2012 at 11:11 am

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