There is a certain format to the modern climbing film and it is usually given away in the opening sequence: Sweeping drone shots, a variety of locations, a series of failed attempts and falls, a series of successful power screams. In many ways this kind of film is becoming formulaic. Dai Koyamada's films exist in a totally different space. He is a climber who believes in the art form of his sport and with his latest Project Daihold film he has clearly set out to capture that.
Koyamada relocated to Gero in his native Japan to project what eventually became Nayuta, a stunning 30 move V16, the first of its grade in Japan. Situated under a bridge by a river, Koyamada spent session after session dissecting its moves. The film is almost exclusively set in that location, as he returns again and again to project at his limit. For the viewer this approach almost becomes claustrophobic; you are left craving a change of location, a new problem, a different line. In a way you may catch yourself wanting him to give up, climb a variety of lower grade problems and show you what else the area has to offer. But then you remind yourself that there are other films for that; that's not why you're here.
We live in a disposable age. Even climbing is no escape from the world of instant gratification. Gyms change problems on an almost continual rotation, indoor grades are used to show quick progression and success, videos and images disappear into the abyss of social media algorithms almost as quickly as they have been uploaded. At nearly an hour long, Nayuta is a break from that norm. There's no doubt it takes patience to watch Koyamada slowly break down the problem, changing beta, finding new body positions. But maybe that is the beauty of a film such as this; you truly begin to feel the effort that he has put in and understand the challenge he faced—you must be patient to understand it. When a climber sends a project at their limit after working and refining the moves it can often look easy, and that journey they went on is lost in a moment of perfection. There is none of that here. When Koyamada eventually sends Nayuta you have a connection to the effort and time he has put in.
Nayuta is shot in a personal format and aside from a few cutaway sections of the culture in the local area, Koyamada is the sole person to feature, the narrative driven by Koyamada's comments between attempts. This is not high level production either, but much simpler—and whilst that approach would impact some movies, here it feels like no hindrance. It's clear you're not here for the production level or storytelling, you're here to watch one of the best climbers in the world climb at his limit.
The one-problem film is a relatively new genre in climbing movies. Nalle's Lappnoor project took a similar yet higher budget approach to what is now the hardest boulder problem in the world. It's easy to understand why those at this level want to capture their ascents in this way; it's the story of the battle they went through and effort expended. However for the viewer it is undoubtedly a one-off investment. These are not the kind of films you'll find yourself approaching time and again, but they may in fact include more that you can learn from than the traditional 'psyche' movie. Very few of us will ever climb at a level close to that Koyamada is operating at, yet there is something for everyone to take away from his approach—but only if you accept you're not here for a big budget film or the 'psyche' and instead to watch a master at work.
Nayuta is available to download from Vimeo On Demand here.