Having already played a huge role in changing and enhancing the sport of skiing as part of the New Canadian Air Force and with over a decade of hard charging exploits in front of the camera, Mike Douglas is now doing the same thing behind the camera. With his well-received 2011 offering The Freedom Chair, Douglas turned the story of pro-skier and coach Josh Dueck’s personal tragedy in a crippling ski accident into a phoenix rising from the ashes tale. It’s a classic portrayal of a fall and an ascending triumph as it deals with the darkness that envelops Dueck after his accident and his determination to continue with the sport he loves. In fact, to put a finer point on it, it is Dueck’s fight to continue with that defining part of himself that got him into trouble in the first place. The fearless, take-no-prisoners mindset that’s a requirement to do the things freeskiers do. The psychology involved here is not the normal subject of discussion in ski movies. It’s mentioned from time to time but never fully explored. You have to consider if it actually can be covered fully in a film because getting to core of a lot of questions involving mindset goes beyond words and that takes you into the world of mysticism – a place hard to understand unless you have some life experience. Nevertheless, with Freedom Chair, Douglas showed that this particular intersection, the mental game and physical limits, in the ski movie neighborhood is worth spending some time at.
Tempting Fear is the next step in Douglas’ exploration of the psychology of skiing, tracking the exploits of Swedish-born and Chamonix-based ski-mountaineer Andreas Fransson for roughly a year long period between 2011 and 2012. To the uninitiated, what Fransson does is climb up and ski down mountains that look absolutely impossible. He gets himself into high alpine places that would normally cause grown men to void their bowels. In fact, these mountain faces and couloirs, when caught on the cameras that Fransson wears on these descents, can have the effect of causing grown men to void their bowels even while sitting on the sofa while watching said film. Fransson finds his challenges in unforgiving environments and he goes to places human beings are not meant to be. One false move, you die. One small avalanche down one of these couloirs while you’re mid-climb and it’s probably lights out. His first descents on mountains around the world, including down the south face of Denali in Alaska shown in Tempting Fear, are becoming the stuff of legend and his blog at http://andreasfransson.se is a great source for details and pictures. Again, for the uninitiated if it helps, Fransson is the LeBron James of ski-mountaineering.
Tempting Fear combines the mountain footage shot by Bjarne Sahlen, Fransson’s climbing partner with the narrative taken from Fransson’s own writings. The effect of the interior monologue combined with the knee-weakening footage makes for a great dramatic device because it adheres to the best rule of dealing with a story in movie format: show, don’t tell. Tempting Fear therefore serves as a documentary about Fransson’s extreme mountain adventures but also provides a 25 minute tour of the workings of his mind. And Fransson’s is an incisive and contemplative facility. Listening to Fransson’s film monologue or reading his blog you find things like:
“The worthy adventures of the future will be the ones that invite uncertainty to the table together with beauty and esthetics on the other side. And at the other end of the table there have to sit an unanswered question. This is how I imagine a good adventure.
It (the outcome of the challenge)(has) to be uncertain, because for me, things that are static are not alive and if an adventure is certain (success, risk, reward etc.) it can be done purely in ones mind – it would not be worth using the playground of this world to expand our consciousness and go out in it and play.” http://andreasfransson.se/2012/05/the-end/
This type of thinking might go over the heads of a lot of people, for others it will just freak them out. Frankly, I’m impressed with intellects and adventurers like Fransson who push the limits past what is considered normal by society thereby setting the benchmark for other like-minded souls as to what is possible and what can be surpassed in the future.
This all makes for a great story and so a great short film. Douglas’ 5 to 6 minute episodes for Salomon’s FreeSki TV give us ski freaks a nice, short blast of the thrill we love before we hit the hills ourselves. But his longer works like Freedom Chair and now Tempting Fear are delivering a much more substantial and substantive insight into the outer edges of the sport. And that’s a welcome development to the art form we call ski movies. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail