Scream of Stone (1991)

Rating: C

Dir: Werner Herzog
Star: Donald Sutherland, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Stefan Glowacz, Mathilda May

Herzog’s last dramatic feature to date (since this, he’s done only documentaries) treads a path familiar to fans of Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo – obsessive man against implacable nature. Here, it’s mountaineer Roger (Mezzogiorno), obsessed with climbing the unconquered Cerro Torre, the titular “scream of stone”. He teams with Martin (Glowacz), a despised sport-climber, but Martin attacks the mountain when Roger is off getting supplies. Tragedy follows: Roger’s best friend dies but at the urging of journalist Ivan (Sutherland), Martin says he conquered the peak. A return engagement inevitably follows.

Apart from the finale, this is a film about climbing, with very little climbing in it, though that’s probably preferable to the ‘action-movie up a mountain’ approach of Hollywood. It certainly evokes how the sport can become an obsession, but you can’t help wishing Klaus Kinski was in the lead role, as Mezzogiorno can’t cut it; May, as the rock-groupie, need not have appeared at all. Far more successful is Brad Dourif, cameoing as another climber who now simply hangs around Cerro Torre. The mountain’s presence looms over the film like a monster, and you can see why Roger describes it as “evil”; it’s not enough, however, and in the main, this comes over as a kinda dull shaggy-dog story.