The Sends
a film by Shawn Boye


Text by Tommy Vänskä

 

A diver - very much resembling Peter Bosma - suffers an accident and is rescued out of the water. During the revival attempts one of the ambulance personnel gives the diagnosis: he is suffering, not from the bends*, but the sends.


So begins the latest video from Tielma productions, i.e. Canadian ex-pat Shawn Boye. Having focused primarily on covering bouldering in Sweden in his previous films Tjugo på Kjuge and Swedish meatballs, Boye now turns to exploring the question of what it takes to send.

The quest begins with bouldering: From a project at Stockholm's Brudberget through the east coast home turf of Stefan Rasmussen to Åland, we are given a hefty dose of ropeless action culminating in the first repeat of Normipäivä at Geta (or was it a dab?), courtesy of Bosma. We are then introduced to a fiery-eyed Stefan Wulf, who manages the first repeat of an old Johan Luhr sport route, and in good style too; Wulf DWS:s the thing, although SWS might be a more appropriate term, as there appears to be around a meter and a half of water beneath the route. Wulf doesn't look super solid here, and confesses that he never linked it on top rope before tossing the rope and going for the solo. Contrary to some persistent beliefs on this side of Åland it would appear that cojones and Sweden do mix after all!

Indeed, for those in doubt the next section should settle the matter, as we are taken aboard Henrik Bolander's boat and are shown what the coast of Bohuslän has to offer in terms of DWS. Right away Bolander climbs a 20+ meter 7c+ at an imposing cliff called Bläckhall, a feat that simple cannot be accomplished without a pair of fair sized balls (metaphorically speaking, of course). The DWS section shows that the contrast between the slightly overhanging granite of Bohuslän and the more commonly seen steep limestone of, say, Mallorca is apparent, but not necessarily to the advantage of either one.

As we move on back to dry land we get a first look at Granitgrottan, an unusually steep cave-like crag which hosts the long time project of Björn Strömberg, who is clearly getting frustrated with not sending the thing. Another man, Scott Mooney, seems to have sending wired, though, as is evidenced by a few second try ascents of rather hard trad routes in Bohuslän. Finally, Strömberg gets his shit together and completes his project, giving birth to Leroy, 8c. But only after he has fallen off at the anchors due to a carabiner gate facing the wrong way! I suggest clipping class for Björn, but good effort anyway.

In my opinion it is usually a good idea to have some kind of structural framework in a climbing film, meaning something that makes it more than just a succession of climbs. The Sends fares well in this respect. The theme of what it takes to send routes and boulders is explored mainly through extensive interviews which are skillfully intercut with the climbing footage to form a smooth, very watchable story. The scenes with Boye by the campfire felt a bit superfluous to me, though, and perhaps the film could have been kept together with slightly less of the talking. I would also have liked to hear more Swedish, as the English at times felt a bit contrived. We are in Sweden, and mostly among Swedish climbers, after all. One of the few instances when Swedish is clearly heard is when Björn Strömberg falls off at the anchors of Leroy and very loudly lets the name of the female genitals echo in the cave. Genuine. One of my favorite moments of the film.

The footage itself is generally good, but suffers from an occasional lack of "master shots", meaning shots that reveal the entire line, or just reveal the line for what it is. The DWS section in particular would have benefitted greatly from more shots showing exactly how high above the water the climber is, how far he has to go and so on. In fact, I can recall only one such shot, in which Stefan Wulf is hanging in a small roof at perhaps ten meters: a beautiful shot, which is inexplicably held for only a few frames. The lack of these kinds of shots is partially
explained by the parameters under which the shooting took place (according to some inside information I've received). However, in some cases the best angle is not found, or is underused. The best example of this is Normipäivä, which is one of the most impressive boulder problems I have ever seen: a perhaps 60 degree overhang, as if cut by a knife, which just goes on and on and on. This does not come through in the film. A bit of history would have been nice here, too. The problem was tried by everyone and his brother for well over ten years before Nalle Hukkataival finally climbed it in 2007. Among the failed contenders is Ben Moon, who allegedly said "in another life" after giving up.

In Swedish meatballs I had a huge problem with the choice of music and the way it worked (or didn't!) with the picture. Here, I think some progress has been made. However, there are probably many kinds of scenes to which acoustic man-and-guitar music in the minor key goes beautifully, but someone cranking a DWS F.A. by the skin if his teeth is definitely not one of them! Similar fatal dissonances (for me) between music and picture are found throughout the film, so I guess I just don't share Boye's view on this matter.

Some selected highlights: the section with Stefan Rasmussen (nice character portrait and fine problems); Bolander topping out 43 Knots at Bläckhall, showing real elation and relief; Leroy, impressive line and real frustration.

Overall, the Sends is a well crafted climbing film, the best so far from Tielma, and as such comes with my recommendation (for what it's worth!). It is available as a traditional dvd and also as a HD download at www.tielma.com.



Text by Tommy Vänskä


*) the bends = decompression sickness (a divers disease)