Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Telluride Film Festival: 127 Hours

The men in my family have always been in love with the wilderness. My father was a Forest Service ranger and we have in our possession a letter written in fancy script of my Great, Great, probably Great Grandfather imploring his son to forget his wanderlust of going into the Wild to hunt and settling down into respectability.
I remember my mom declaring to my brother "You can't make a profession of hunting!" Well he proved her wrong- developing a long range rifle, working with Leopold Rifle Scopes and Cabela Outfitters and hosting a Hunting show on cable that takes him to parts unknown, well unknown to his family.
My brother did have a run in with a rattlesnake, who didn't appreciate being picked up and bit my brother on the hand- He had to horseback ride 5 hours to get to the trailhead where the search and rescue were waiting for him.

So needless to say, 127 Hours hit a little bit too close to home. I was expecting to not like it for the "sensational-ness of the story" Cayonlands, where Ralston was caught is just over the border into Utah, near Moab- where we often hike and mountain bike and in fact this last weekend the rest of my family was backpacking there. So I have heard the hype about this story since he was found walking out on his own.

To say Ralston was careless was an understatement- not telling anyone where he was going was the least irresponsible thing he did on that trip- in a place, covered in red rock and sand where in a given year there are always deaths of people doing the right things and just having bad luck.

But something I realized watching the movie- was the buzz discussion leading up to the viewing of the movie- of " could you cut off your own hand, I couldn't" - is really a mute one.
I should note here that Ralston introduced the film and emphasized that as much as possible the movie is exactly the progression of events as he remembers them.

Ralston did not cut his hand off an hour after he got caught- if movies, a story is the arc journey of a character, the progression of a three act structure- where a character is freewheeling, events happen to commit him to a journey and then he takes that journey- then 127 Hours if the perfect three act structure story- pretty amazing in a movie where three fourth of it is of a guy not moving or talking much in a slot canyon in Utah.

It took five days, of a mental journey including flashback and hallucinations for him to get to a place where the only resolution WAS to cut his arm off.

One of the most profound flashback is the back of his truck, with a girl,
GIRL: What's the combination?
Ralston says nothing, just smiles.
GIRL: What's the combination?
Ralston still only smiles.
GIRL: You're not going to tell me, are you?
RALSTON ( with not so big smile) If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

His fierce independence comes out beautifully- the movie opening with him throwing supplies in a backpack and ignoring the call from his mother being taken on the answering machine.
His laid back view of life is also well established- wiping out on the slick rock on his bike and the first thing he does is take a picture of his "wipe out"
I have to say that getting your hand caught by a boulder in Canyonlands could not of happened to a guy that was more prepared- not in equipment- Ralston was munching on muffins from the grocery store and a burrito from a gas station, no high tech gear for this guy- but I mean prepared mentally and with the right mind set to survive that long and be able to well.... cut his own arm off.

I don't want to give the ending away - yeah I know he cuts his arm off- but what finally sealed the deal for him- but getting back to how do you love a man who loves the wilderness like many men in my family- unfortunately you can only love them on their own terms and take the time they give you.

But also like my brother,  Ralston then, had no attachment, no wife, no children and no mortgage, so if he died his family would grieve for him of course, but he wasn't leaving anyone behind that depend on him.

Telluride also does a Mountain Film Festival, on Memorial Day each year " Celebrating the Indomitable Spirit" of wild places and extreme sports. They tour the previous year's show and that is where I saw the heartbreaking and useless film "Solo" of the obsession of Kayaker Andrew McAuley's attempt at a 1,000-mile crossing of the Tasman Sea between Tasmania and New Zealand in a Kayak.

The difference between McAuley and Ralston- McAuley drown and left behind a four year old little boy and wife. For what?

My own husband also is in love with the wilderness- he took me deep in it and leaning against the tailgate of his GMC truck, asked me to marry him- then the first things he said after I said "Yes" was "...and you know I like to hunt?"
He has hunted, raft, hiked, backpacked, camped and mountain biking in the twenty years of our life together but his focus has changed and now his greatest delight is taking our girls out to the wilderness he loves.

I hope and pray, Ralston learned his lesson- because now he also has a wife and a new son that depend on him!

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