School is out for a couple weeks, and I finally got time to check out some bouldering videos I've been wanting to see, "Unreal" and "Swedish Meatballs." They are about as different from each other as bouldering films can get. "Unreal" was released by Momentum Video Magazine, stars Ivan Greene, and documents a bouldering trip to Virgin Gorda.
Ashley and I took our own bouldering trip to Virgin Gorda about six years ago so we were excited to compare Ivan's experience to our own. Virgin Gorda is a unique and beautiful place, and the film shows that. The boulder problems in the film are varied, and most of them look really fun to climb. It amazed me how many featured overhanging faces they were able to uncover. Ashley and I only found vertical, and slabby lines at the Baths. The film is well done, but some aspects bother me. One in particular is that the film feels "unreal." Travel footage isn't included, the female climbers look more like models than boulderers, and there's plenty of posing. Having been to Virgin Gorda, we know that not everything in the Caribbean is paradise. You wouldn't know that watching this film. All the annoyances, and legitimate reasons the area isn't a major climbing destination, are left out. The cruise ship tourists that pack the Baths everyday, the oppressive heat and humidity, and the high prices to stay on the island aren't brought up at all. The area has no local climbers, no guidebook, and nowhere to even buy chalk. The trip seemed planned with the purpose being to make the film. The result is a fantasy, shot in an environment that looks like one.
After "Unreal", "Swedish Meatballs" was a refreshing change of pace.
The film follows a Welsh boulderer on a month long road trip with a couple friends through Sweden. Normal looking boulderers bundled up for cold temps. A world away from the swimsuited models and shirtless Ivan Greene in "Unreal." Along the way, local climbers at each area are included. The three climbers joke around a lot. They barely say a single serious line in the film. The film follows a repeating pattern of showing the bouldering at a Swedish area with an unpronounceable name, the three going out to eat unhealthy food and make jokes, then sleeping on the floor of someone's house before they do it all over again. The pattern gets repeated at new areas probably seven times. The main guy, Dylan, goes back to one area to get a project, and that is the end of the film. The bouldering is beautiful, on granite in thick forests, next to meadows or calm open water, but it doesn't appear that problems were chosen for aesthetics. Much of the film is shot in dappled light during the middle of the day. I think the film maker simply followed the climbers as they got on what they were interested in, when they happened to be there. Plenty of low ball boulders and falls are included. Most problems are in the V7-10 range. It's just boulderers playing the game the way it is actually played, edited together nicely, with a pleasant soundtrack. According to all appearances the trip was the purpose, and the film simply an honest documentation of the trip. They had a lot of fun, and I laughed a lot watching it. When it ended, I was psyched to go on a bouldering trip somewhere around here or to Sweden one day. For me "Swedish Meatballs", though not nearly as slick, was a much better film.
Fantasy leads to disappointment. The best things in life by far, are the things that are real.