The new film by Nick Waggoner and Sweetgrass Productions is nothing short of stunning. Not since his groundbreaking ski movie Signatures have snow sports been so profoundly elevated from mere adventure to art. Exquisite and sublime Solitaire takes expedition filmmaking to a new level combining music and athleticism to create a dance of speed, strength and courage that virtually sings with sheer poetry.
Narrated in Spanish with English subtitles Solitaire follows an anonymous team of backcountry skiers and snowboarders across the rugged South American landscape of the Andes Mountains. With a script based on the 1902 novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad the film fully embraces the spirit of venturing into the unknown wilderness as a metaphoric exploration of humanity’s persistent appetite for adventure. But unlike Conrad’s tale of travel through the dark African continent along the Congo River, Waggoner leads viewers of his film from the shadows into the light. Unencumbered by detailed character development and dialog Solitaire allows its story to shine through with breathtaking big mountain cinematography and the triumph of one incredible high velocity ascent after another.
Shooting in alpine style Waggoner follows each athlete as he or she makes their ascent of peaks in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. With a cast that includes Chris Erickson, Kim Havell, Eliel Hindert, Erica and Jaime Laidlaw, Osaumu Okada and Taro Tamai, the film depicts their struggle to earn each summit as they camp and climb with skins to elevations thick with snow. Though traveling in groups or at least in pairs the athletes each seem to face their own unique challenges. As the title implies Solitaire illustrates the truth that adventure lies not in the destination but the journey through which the nature of our character as individuals is revealed.
After so many months of teaser trailers this much anticipated film was well-worth the wait. Premiering in Boulder, Colorado on September 15th, Solitaire is set for small venue distribution and will likely be available soon on DVD. Surely it’s destined for the major adventure media festivals like Banff, 5Point and Mountain Film. If there’s a better mountaineering/ski movie in the mix for the 2011-2012 season it’ll have to be pretty damn amazing. Solitaire is probably the best film of its kind you’ll see this year and should look forward to take every major award on the cinema circuit. ~JEM
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