Words by Tanja Schmitt and Matthias Scherer
We had the idea of collaborating on a film project about ice climbing in Cogne, our chosen home for the last 10 years, for quite a long time. This small mountain village deep in the Italian Alps is known around the world for its spectacular ice climbs.
What made making this film a challenge was the fact that we wanted to show more than simple action. Ice climbing has shaped both of our lives so intensely for more than a decade and has carved our characters and influenced our way of thinking in so many ways. It was clear from the beginning of this project that this was exactly about this intense relation we have to the ice and that is how we wanted to compose the story.
It was a great opportunity for us to team up with Franz Walter and Hans Hornberger. They joined us in Cogne on the last day of 2013 and made the first steps to make this project eventually happen.
2014 started with magical conditions. Fresh snow had covered the mountains and valleys in Cogne and the thermometer showed solid cold temperatures below -15C. We filmed on the first of January on the mythical ice line 'Repentance', and in the following week we were venturing out there every day in the dark before dawn, only to return with the sinking sun climbing the most spectacular ice falls. The ice was still in early season conditions, just reborn and many lines still not yet climbed. These were 'real' conditions for us to climb and 'real' conditions for Franz and Hans to film.
We had collected a decent amount of intense footage and yet the next step in production was no easy one. We wanted to show how ice climbing changes us and the way we all start to look upon life: how fragile everything is, how we can carry on, which values we develop. By leaving the trodden paths and making ice climbing the center of our life, we have developed our own philosophy.
In a society where everybody wants to regulate and shape you and your lifestyle, taking full responsibility for yourself is a fundamental key to growing as a person: feeling the weight of your existence with the air below your crampons, clawed only millimeters into the ice, offers a very intense view of life without any distractions. To climb above the abyss and to carry on despite the cold, the fear, the gravity and the brittleness of the ground forms values unaltered by centuries and cultures, where the layers of distraction, convention and history are ripped away, and the look upon the world is clear and honest.
In our rationality-ruled world we sometimes forget that there are also other, powerful forces at work. It Is the archaic energy that lives in ice climbing in one of its purest forms - always in evolution, restless, unbound. Adapting to this environment means accepting the constant change and to internalize it that everything can change by seconds. Over the years it becomes a fascinating game between the stability that training and preparation creates versus the ever changing chaotic nature of ice.
This chaotic nature bursts the boundaries of sport. Reason, ratio and rules known from sport or sport climbing lose their power in the face of the ice. Every winter, climbing ice is a venture into the unknown. And it still remains a big adventure for us.
That is what the film wants to show and we are grateful to have the opportunity to live this adventure.
Here's the full-length of the short film Velocity: