I love a good documentary. Unlike reality shows which I personally feel are often scripted, documentaries show you how life really is for the people featured in it. That is why when I was asked to review the documentary A Life Ascending I jumped at the opportunity.
The official film synopsis is as follows;
A Life Ascending chronicles the life of acclaimed mountaineer Ruedi Beglinger. Living with his wife and two young daughters on a remote glacier in the vast mountains of British Columbia, Beglinger has built a reputation as one of the top ski mountaineering guides in the world.
The film follows his family’s unique life off the grid and their journey in the years following a devastating avalanche that killed seven people. Documenting the sublime beauty and ever-present risk of a life lived on the edge, the film ultimately explores the power of nature as both an unforgiving host and profound teacher.
I was initially drawn to this movie because I was curious as to why someone would want to live their life high above in the mountains, far away from civilation. My first thought was that they lived like the Swiss Family Robinson, feeding off the land and making tools out of wood and rocks. That is not the case at all. Their home and lodge have all the modern conveniences including electricity and Internet.
In this documentary we meet Ruedi Beglinger, his wife Nicoline and thier teenage daughters Florina and Charlotte. Together with some lodge staff and their dog, the family resides in a home high up in the mountains, far removed from the rest of the world. The only way in and out of their lodge is by helicopter.
The snow where they live looks like it must get at least 10 feet high, or higher! They build paths to get around between the buildings and the helicopter launch pad that have walls that must be at least 10′ high.
Ruedi was born and raised in the mountains. He can stay away from the mountains for a short time but his heart always brings him back. Ruedi is not only an accomplished skier and guide but also an avid rock climber too.
Each week new guests arrive at the lodge. Every day while they are there Ruedi takes them high up into the mountains to ski. Some people are a bit put off with Ruedi’s “my way or the highway” attitude, but they understand that he’s only like that for their protection.
Back in 2003, Ruedi and a group of skiiers he wsa guiding got caught up in an avalache. Six people survived, seven people tragically lost their lives in the avalache. Even though it’s been many years the pain from that event makes its way into Ruedi’s life every day. Not a moment goes by when he doens’t think about what happened and the lives that were lost. Even though he’s come to term with it the pain and memory will live on in his heart forever.
I was most interested in the children. I thought maybe they would feel like they were missing out on life being so secluded and cut off from their peers but the girls seem very happy and well adjusted. In fact they enjoy their lives in the mountain. They have their own private teacher and stay connected to their school in town. I would be curious to see how the girls are a few years from now when they are older and interested in boys and things like attending the prom and graduation.
There was a very interesting side story in the film about a young man who came to the lodge to ski and fell madly in love with the life they lived that he worked for them six months out of the year. Sadly he was one of the seven individuals who lost their lives on that fateful day. Interestingly enough the girls had just finished reading a book (sorry, the name escapes me) where souls come back to the Earth as Ravens. A few days after the avalanche a Raven magically appeared at the lodge. The girls feel that the Raven is the reincarnation of their friend who lost his life in the avalanche. At the time the documentary was filmed the Raven had returned to the lodge every Winter for four years. Ravens are not indigenous to that region. I find that to be truly fascinating.
I can’t even describe how breathtakenly beautiful the mountains are in the documentary. Sometimes they are beautiful beyond words and other times they are very scary and foboding. They can be a thing of true beauty and at times deadly. I also amazed me just how much walking and climbin the skiiers had to do in order to reach the highest points to launch from.
A Life Ascending is available on DVD on February 28, 2012. There are also bonus features including interviews with film’s director and composer, a short clip on how Ruedi almost lost his foot, “Growing up on the glacier” which is the girl’s perspective on their lives in the mountain and a Q&A session at the Banff Film Festival.
You can learn more about the film and the people behind the film by visiting www.ALifeAscending.com. You can also connect with the film on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/ALifeAscending), Twitter (www.Twitter.com/ALifeAscending) and on YouTube (www.YouTube.com/ALifeAscending).
Here is the movie’s trailer for your enjoyment.
*I received a free screener copy in order to do this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own.