[Photos: Silvano Zeiter]
The long-awaited, self-funded Nicolas Müller documentary is finally released tomorrow. We caught Fruition at the Munich premiere and offer up our review of what is certainly one of the most bizarre, yet ultimately awesome, snowboard movies of recent years...
"And then the camera pans down to reveal Nico's bare bottom..." Never thought I'd write that about a snowboard movie, but then again Nicolas Müller's Fruition is in no way a regular snowboard movie. It's ambitious. It's bonkers. It's thought-provoking. It's self-indulgent. It's sincere. It's stunning. And needless to say it has some incredible snowboarding throughout its 60-minute length.
It also has acting.
If you ever saw Müller's Nike egg ad from a few years back you'll be in with an idea of what to expect from Fruition, but this movie takes the weird-ometer dial and cranks it up to 11. Hence you see Nico wandering the forest and taking advice from what appears to be the Gruffalo, surreal news reports, a recreation of Nico's childhood days, and the aforementioned ass shot. Whether this dream-like aspect is a good or bad thing depends entirely on your point of view.
For me, accustomed as I am to see snowboard films follow a couple of variants on tried and tested formulas, there was an initial sense of 'does-not-compute' when, rather than rely on archive family footage to present Nico's formative years, they decided to recreate it with child actors. Other points of Müller's life are referenced by fake news clips (so hot right now!) that pop up from time to time, cameos from the likes of Michi Albin, and Nico himself featuring in acted scenes (the one where he realises he might not be insurable is pretty funny). The closest snowboarding's come to this would be Marco Lutz's equally left-of-field JDP movies from the early 2000s, and it's no coincidence these are some of Müller's all-time favourite snowboard films for their outside-the-box approach to what shred porn could be.
Is it too much, or too weird, for a snowboarder biopic? If you like your snowboard movies to be snowboarding set to music, or at a push snowboarding set to music with people talking about snowboarding, travel or snow, then perhaps. But I'd argue not, though, because in a sport seemingly so full of free-thinking individuals it's remarkable how there's been the tendency to present ourselves in such a conservative and formulaic fashion. In this film, Nicolas and the crew tore up the rule book and literally bared all to accomplish their ambitious vision of chronicling the story of his career, and once you put your preconceived expectations of how a snowboard movie should be you'll be rewarded with an experience you won't forget – an increasingly rare commodity in this age of autoplaying, double-tapping digital overload. This should be applauded.
What's indisputable is that no one rides like Nicolas. The guy is pure poetry in motion on his snowboard and in Fruition we're treated to a host of archive footage from his earlier years filming with Absinthe, and from when contests were cool. For someone who's admired Müller's riding for his whole career it's a full-on treat of a trip down memory lane ticking off legendary video shots from epic old movies, but even for kids who aren't so familiar with Nico in his mid-2000s imperial phase the riding still holds up to this day. Then we get to more contemporary footage shot in the couple of winters he's been focussing on this project, which though lighter on the 'tricks' than when he was banging out Absinthe parts, is no less impressive. In many ways it's even more impressive seeing Nico shifty and butter his way down the mountain – rather than send switch back 9s off mega wedges – because you think that you could also do it. Until you realise, of course, you couldn't. No one could.
The cinematography in Fruition is epic - one Brain Farm-esque shot at the start of Nico atop a peak is ingrained in my mind - and there's some in-your-face Saas-Fee pow shredding with Fredi Kalbermatten that brings you closer to the feeling than most – GLUE being a notable exception – have managed. There's also the aforementioned onslaught of butters, ollies and shifties, and plenty of insane powder, but for me the crowning moment is the montage of Nico and friends fun-shredding across the planet near the movie's end. Kids would no doubt hashtag 'relatable' right here.
Naturally, you could just fast forward the more ambitious parts and you'll be left with a pretty rad – yet standard – snowboarder biopic replete with legendary archive footage, froth-worthy new shots, and people talking about how good Nico is, but to do so would miss out the essence of the film: to open a window into, as they say, 'the life and dreams of Nicolas Müller'. The surreal nature of much of the film achieves this better than any talking head could to form an enduring portrait of one of 21st Century snowboarding's indisputable icons.
It's often said that there's a fine line between madness and genius, but in Fruition Nicolas and the movie's producers (Yeahh Productions Zurich and Tasty Pictures) have set their edge perfectly to gun it through that tight chute. At the end of the day, devoting your life to sliding sideways down snow-covered hills is a pretty bizarre thing to do. We're all weirdos in that sense, and Nicolas is our crown prince.