A movie review of “A Fine Line”

The Verdon Gorge in France is a magical place. I’ve written about it before in Rock and Ice issue 172, but didn’t do its beauty justice. The huge expanse of rock, a sea of blue limestone that extends out from you snaking into the horizon, holds some of the most awe-inspiring sport climbs I have done. Not just because of the exposure, but the rock and the way you move across it makes it feel as if the canyon were made for climbing.

While there I attempted a short single-pitch climb that gently arced through an alcove on the upper 30 meters of the cliffline. The moves trended right through thin crimps and technical sequences: there were long lock-offs, high feet and a desperate stab out left. I came back to it many days in a row trying to dial in the beta.  As much as I wanted to do this route, and as much as I thought about it and tried to redpoint it, it was the middle pitch of another route I climbed one time that I remember the best. The route was roughly 10 pitches long, and I don’t remember the name but locals called it The Kiwi Route because some climbers from New Zealand put it up. But that doesn’t matter much in my mind. It’s the last dying light that splayed across the rock behind us and the feeling of the light breeze that I remember. The movement felt so natural up there that I felt like that moment was the only thing in the universe that existed. It made perfect sense.

I search for moments like these often, but rarely do them justice. However, the upcoming climbing film, “A Fine Line,” touched that vein for me. “A Fine Line,” the climbing film by Andrew Kornylak and Josh Fowler scheduled to debut  October 2011, is a full-length film starring the Southeastern bouldering brawns Jimmy Webb and Brion Voges and featuring Dave Graham, Daniel Woods and Peter Beal. The film explores the motivation and drive behind these boulderers’ quest to find new lines and exposes a raw passion behind climbing. It is a job well done by all. I’m not just high-fiving my fellow climbers and creative artist from the South, but congratulating the well-told story and images that gave stagnating climbing films a power spot.

After seeing a series of climbing films at the Summer Outdoor Retailers Show back in August, it seems the climbing industry is moving away from pure climbing porn, and shifting towards meaningful stories that capture us in a way we all can identify. “A Fine Line” does this, and illuminates, just for a moment, a puzzle piece in the human quest. It is filled with success and failures and captures a spectrum of emotion behind the sport that transcends the over-played and flattening characteristic of climbers being just plain psyched. It distills climbing into a journey to find “something beautiful and meaningful.” The movie, filled with stellar boulders and beautiful landscapes from Chattanooga, Tenn., Castle Rocks, Idaho, and alpine bouldering areas in Colorado gives us a peek not just into the minds of these boulderers on their quest to establish beautiful lines but into what we all search for in the topout.

Atlanta-based Kornylak and Folwer are two very talented photographers and video artists less known in the climbing film world than those like Peter Mortimer, but their  fresh view and subtle, tailored eye gives a new perspective into the bouldering community from a sometimes overlooked part of the country. The videography was worth the movie alone, and spoke just as loud as the voices behind the film.  The sometimes subdued, muted colors, expansive shots and unique framing glowed as the filmmakers own aesthetic quest came through the film. The images’ mood mirrored, in my mind, the tone of what was said on screen as if Kornylak and Fowler were on their own aesthetic quests. It takes climbing into the world of art and gives meaning to what can seem like a senseless chase. Why do climbers go through (as Beal says) the misery and torture to climb little rocks? Check out the film to find out.

A Fine Line – Film Trailer from Andrew Kornylak on Vimeo.