climbing as a way of life


Red bandana and blond hair, bare chest and feet, without rope or partner, Patrick Edlinger climbed the cliffs like a squirrel. His aura and his ease on the rock have marked several generations of climbers.

In his documentary film, Nils Martin tells the fabulous story of a man for whom nature was an inexhaustible playground and in which he wanted to blend in like a wild animal. A climber too, the director cut his teeth alongside Jean-François Lignan, known as “Poil”, one of Edlinger’s most faithful companions. Through the testimonies of acrobats close to the “blond”, images of today and archives, Nils Martin plunges us into the life of the man who has long been considered the best climber in the world.

“He was super good in balance, foot placement, flexibility when he was young. Then he developed muscle strength”, remembers Robert Exertier, also a climber. The documentary makes it possible to discover and appreciate Edlinger’s neat style. His lean, muscular body caressed the steep cliffs.

A minimalist life

Bewitched by the mountain, this adrenaline junkie nicknamed “Captain Maximum” spent his life there. No question of stopping the climb until he had reached exhaustion. Thirsty for freedom, the native of Dax (Landes) had left high school at 17 to devote himself to climbing and live intensely the present without thinking about tomorrow. When society was already advocating material comfort and security, he aspired to a minimalist life. “He climbed without a rope, free from risk and death”assures, fascinated, Jean-Lou Granville, young climber for whom Edlinger is a model.

Read also: The last savages of climbing

If he has become a climbing icon, it is partly thanks to the short film by Jean-Paul Janssen, Life at your fingertipsreleased in 1982, devoted to his daily life filled with exploits. “Cinema is, in the line of life that I have set myself, a pleasant detour to meet a different environment”, confided Edlinger. More than a parenthesis, the staging of his image also allowed him to earn a living.

All the spotlight is on the climbing soloist. To the point of fueling the jealousy of climbers who considered themselves to have the same level. “Patrick took very difficult paths. Even if we did the same things, we went unnoticed”remembers Antoine Le Menestrel.

Read also: Patrick Edlinger, pioneer of bare-handed climbing

The image of “Captain Maximum” suspended in the void, on one arm, hundreds of meters above the ground, is striking. He defied death all his life, until it caught up with him. On November 16, 2012, he died at the age of 52 from an ordinary fall down the stairs at his home. Ten years later, this gripping documentary pays tribute to the man who, according to his friends, “lived like a rockstar and died like a rockstar”.

Edlinger, freedom at your fingertipsde Nils Martin (Fr., 2022, 51 min).



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