Have You Watched “Meru”? (My Thoughts)

I’ve watched a few amazing documentaries about rock climbing over the last few years, including Dawn Wall and Free Solo. The other film frequently mentioned among those three is Meru, which I finally watched this weekend.

Meru covers a few different themes. The core idea is that three climbers try to scale Meru, an incredibly daunting ascent up the “Shark’s Fin” route in the Indian Himalayas, for the first time.

The secondary concept veers into spoiler territory, so if you want to watch this intense documentary, I’d recommend that you stop reading and go check it out on Amazon Prime.

Still here? If so, you probably know that the secondary concept is about redemption and second chances. 30 minutes into the film you learn that the first attempt is remarkably close (and often miserable), but not quite enough.

The next 30 minutes follows the three climbers as they navigate life after the initial attempt. Two of them come within inches of death within a few days of each other, both in skiing-related accidents, both requiring months of recovering (physical and mental).

Yet all three decide to try Meru again. The result is a stunning–and scary–conclusion where they do indeed reach the peek of Meru, and all three survive to tell the tale. I’m incredibly impressed by the achievement, and I think it’s great that the three climbers used Meru as a motivation to heal.

That said, the movie also made me question the thing in all of us as humans that drives us to somewhat arbitrarily do anything. None of these climbers needed to climb Meru again. They could have set another goal, another challenge that didn’t endanger them to this level (one of the climbers was particularly at risk, endangering himself and the other two). I guess I’m just not sure if I like the message of repeating a past failure–particularly a life-or-death level failure–as a positive way of motivating yourself.

That’s a very limited point of view, though, and I really don’t want to take anything away from this powerful film. I’m very curious what you think.

3 thoughts on “Have You Watched “Meru”? (My Thoughts)”

  1. Interesting— it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, and I remember also being amazed and shocked by their decision, because I probably wouldn’t have done the same. What I don’t remember is if the movie specifically prescribes that message as a way to heal, or if it was instead a specific way that these three men chose to pursue healing. I guess I should watch it again! Anyway, I got a lot out of this interview this morning — Jon Krakauer is always insightful. https://youtu.be/bA0IlOZQu1U

  2. I think your feelings are justified, and I think your reaction was expected by the directors, if not intentional. Your feelings may be stronger than my own, but I also walked away from Meru with serious doubts about the risks they accepted, especially in regards to Renan Ozturk. They were lucky. Sure, they were also very skilled and experienced, but also very, very lucky. The movie left a lot of unanswered questions and I’m not sure they could have tied it in a nice little bow if they tried.


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