Jaw-dropping widescreen lensing is not matched by jaw-dropping human drama in “Nanga Parbat,” a German “mountain film” that recounts the Messner brothers’ still-controversial ascent of the eponymous 8,000-meter Western Himalayan peak in 1970. The $10 million mid-January release has so far scaled a so-so $1.3 million in Deutschland, with few B.O. peaks visible elsewhere.
Aside from brief scenes of the climbing-mad brothers’ childhood in a German-speaking village in Italy’s South Tyrol, the pic is largely told in flashback as Reinhold (Florian Stetter) tells his version of events — and especially the death of brother Guenther (Andreas Tobias) — after interrupting a lecture on the expedition by martinet team leader Karl Maria Herrligkoffer (Karl Markovics). Script stirs in some church-taught guilt about “being your brother’s keeper” but generates little ongoing drama over the two tearaways’ relationship or the expedition itself, despite realistic makeup and production design. (The 2008 mountain pic “North Face” was far more gripping.) Lead perfs are eclipsed by Markovics’ tut-tutting, professorial Herrligkoffer, while Gustavo Santaolalla’s score never matches the majesty of the location shooting in the Western Himalayas, South Tyrol and Austria. Vet Joseph Vilsmaier (“Stalingrad”) directs stolidly.