[VoxSpace Life] Free Solo : Alex Honnold’s Impossible Mission

The Story Of Icarus Who Conquered The Sun

The thing about fear is that it is supposed to be conquered. But what happens when that is all you want to do. Alex Honnold is a 33-year professional rock-climber who had one dream all his life, to Free-Solo the El Capitan, the 3000 feet granite rock formation located at the north side of the Yosemite Valley. The documentary Free Solo shows us the various trials and tribulations that Alex went through to achieve his insane goal.

Alex The Anti-Social Adrenaline Junky

When we first see Alex he seems like a slightly anti-social environmentalist type of guy, who has a fascination for climbing huge rocks. But, slowly yet steadily, the film-makers start to unravel the extremely complicated over-achiever that he is. The more we delve into his daily routine and his opinions, we start to realize that he is not anti-social because of the lack of social skills. It is because he doesn’t want to curb his passion due to any obligations. He would rather be a loner than be answerable to anyone about the risk he takes on a daily basis.

The Childhood Baggage That He Still Carries

As we go deeper into his life and his childhood, we start to realize the deep seeded abandonment issues that have been a part of his life. His dad who was also a very anti-social person was also the person who got him interested in rock climbing at the age of 5. As we see him talk about his dad’s death, we see a man who has never really dealt with that loss and someone who would rather ignore it than really talk about. This habit of his seeps into his adult life in various ways, like the way he treats his girlfriend or his refusal to talk about his feelings. While a lot of people might say it’s as a negative thing to suppress his feelings, I think he sees it as helping himself reach his goals with sans distractions.

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Free-Soloing The El Capitan

Free-Soloing is a method of climbing where the person does not use any safety gear to climb a rock. The rock he has always dreamed of Free-Soloing is The El Capitan, which is a 3000-foot granite monolith. Many people have attempted this climb, but none have succeeded. While you watch the film, what scares you the most is that, while we know that none have succeeded, we also know that Alex is not the person that is going to back out. In the process we see the will of an adamant man go against the unforgiving nature of gravity. It is exhilarating to experience the triumph of the human will at this scale.

The Technical Difficulties Of Capturing The Trek On Film

Finally, coming to the technical difficulties of capturing this process on film. The thing about a cliff like this is, you could capture the video and audio from a distance, but that would never create the intimacy that a story like this deserves. Filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi struggled with the question that whether shooting the climb would hamper with Alex’s concentration. They hired professional rock-climbers who were also photographers to climb alongside Alex to capture the video and audio from as close a distance as they could and used special long distance cameras as well. The amount of effort put in is paid off, because of the breathless nature of the last 20 minutes of the film.

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I would like to conclude by saying that, Alex Honnold, when you first meet him might seem unbearably sanctimonious and impossible to like. But, through the run-time of the film, the film-makers make him a likeable over-achiever. I was inspired by his story, hope you guys are too.