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The Hollywood Insider 14 Peaks Nirmal Purja

Photo: ‘14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible’ 

14 Peaks is the inspirational story of a Nepalese Mountaineer named Nirmal Purja. As he explores the highs and lows of the sport, he adds a cultural depth and richness to the mountaineering genre that was greatly lacking. Recently this genre has made its way into the mainstream media with stories like ‘Free Solo’ and ‘The Alpinist’ which focus on what happens to the climber and the family they leave behind as they embark on their dangerous journeys. 

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‘14 Peaks’ challenges this by not only adding a cultural charm to the story but by recording the travels of Purja on the world’s 14 highest peaks in 7 months. The previous record for these peaks was 7 years, so Purja’s story is one of great interest to not just mountaineering experts but also the general public who wonder in awe how he will accomplish such a feat.

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Emotional Undertone Of Purja’s Story and Life

The film does a good job of relying on the side characters to convey essential emotional messages and themes pertaining to the life of a mountain climber. Purja’s wife, Susmi Purja, is very charming and explains the risk that her husband willingly embraces and how it makes him a braver and more inspirational individual. 

His mother’s character introduces another side of the story. Rather than playing the hero card, she talks about the darker aspects of such a dangerous Prospect – the mortality of every human. Her discussions on the fragility of our lives and the care we should take with them are not just dramatic and perfectly juxtaposed with Purja’s climb, but it’s something anyone watching, whether they know about mountaineering or not, can relate to and understand on a deep level.

Nepal Mountains: Beautiful, Terrifying, and An Adventure Waiting To Be Explored

 All credit goes to Purja and his team for capturing most of the documentary’s climbing footage. Their dedication to an authentic and thorough recording is admirable especially considering the difficulties they were already facing amongst the dangerous peaks. The director Torquil Jones uses many of the images they have and then beautifully intertwines them with interviews that the cast and crew conducted. 

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Because of Purja’s dedication to filming some of the shots himself, we get to see many locations that have never before been seen by the general public or in any mountaineering films. The depictions are raw and beautiful and radiate true nature and tranquility. It transforms these dangerous and frightening peaks into friends instead of foes. Perhaps this mentality is what helped Purja achieve his goal and inspire all of us in the process 

Mountaineering Legends: Purja, Messner, and More

One of the most iconic interviews is with Reinhold Messner who’s an Alpine Legend and explores the existentialism that one can face in the middle of these brutal and oftentimes isolating climbs. Strategically, the inclusion of Messner’s interviews also heightens the breadth of what Purja is trying to achieve and the authenticity of his mission. Messner was able to scale the 14 peaks in 16 years, which feels like centuries compared to the 7 days Purja is trying to complete it in. 

Jones also incorporates animation in an attempt to colorfully and accurately depict the themes of Purja’s story. He focuses on concepts like generosity, danger, drive, and most importantly the character that it takes to deal with the emotional and physical implications of a climb so demanding.

The Diversification of the Mountaineering Genre and World 

 It’s important to note the wonderful ways in which this film diversifies the mountaineering genre, changing the way the story can be told and in turn changing the audiences that it reaches and impacts. We not only focus on the mission that Purja is embarking on but we get a look into his childhood home, what it was like for him growing up, and the history of Nepal where the iconic mountains are located. Rather than focus solely on the feats of each individual climber, this documentary does a fantastic job of looking at the overarching themes and lessons, highlighting the dreams and community bonds that Purja and other climbers possess and use as a form of armor against the difficult terrain. 

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This approach allows Purja to develop a narrative and become three-dimensional, not just some athletic legend removed from reality, but a man who we can all relate to and whose stories touch our hearts and souls. We learn about his experiences in military school, his undying love for his mother, and that for him, it’s not about money and views but about a spiritualistic experience. Thankfully with the employment of this narrative, the conclusion lacks basic and sometimes impersonal endings that many mountaineering documents feature. Instead, Purja and his journey are humanized and the Herculanean feats that he accomplishes serve to remind us that nothing is impossible, not at all.

Who Is Nirmal Purja and What Does He Mean To Us 

The most humanizing aspect is Purja’s kindness and his ability to recognize those that shaped his path. There are sequences where he chooses to help climbers nearby, saving their lives but then developing high-altitude cerebral edema in his body. In the end, he also mentions that none of this would be possible without the help of his Sherpas, crediting them with most of his success. He says, “My Sherpas have helped me and they have names. Without their names they are ghosts.”

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 The film has a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes and can be easily viewed on Netflix today! Purja now holds many mountaineering world records, his notable ones being the fastest ascent of all fourteen eight-thousander mountains, with a record time of 6 months and 6 days, the world record ascent of Mount Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu in 48 hours, and the first winter ascent of K2. With an inspirational backstory and even more inspiring journey, you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter and support his new film. 

By Mireille Karadanaian

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