Hell on Wheels

I rented Hell on Wheels from Netflix and even though most of it is in    German (with english subtitles) I enjoyed it immensely.  Hell on Wheels (Hollentour) is a German documentary that follows Team Telekom’s (later T-Mobile) Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag during the 2003 TdF.

I highly recommend renting this.

The following is a review from a viewer* that pretty much sums up how I felt about the film.

*It seems the reviewer has an aversion to capital letters.


hoellentour, a documentary by Oscar-winning film maker pepe danquart on the 2003 tour de France, is documentary filming at its best.

the rave reviews the docu has gotten in each and every German newspaper are more than deserved. for tour de France junkies it will give new insights and spark memories of the memorable 2003 tour, for those who couldn’t care less about road racing, the film will definitely still be entertaining and might spark interest in the sport.

the film has everything a good docu should have: great imagery and colouring, gentle observation of its subjects, fantastic music and timing. – and all that real life drama! that last time trial in the rain, when ullrich fell, could not have been “scripted” any better… life makes for the best stories, after all. it tells its story without any annoying voice-over by a commentator, all commentary you get is from the cyclists themselves.

erik zabel and rolf aldag are the center of the film. zabel, one of the most successful cyclists in the world comes across as a natural, hard working, extremely funny, loyal guy. no attitude whatsoever. – considering that the 2003 tour must have been a humbling experience for him, crashing badly early on, no green jersey, losing sprints to petacci in the first half of the tour (before petacci quit at the first molehill), yet he still shows his true self in this docu. it’s entertaining to observe his relationship with rolf aldag: they seem like a long married couple with appropriate loving bickering and well defined roles (who gets which bed, who has control over the remote). zabels happiness for aldag after winning the mountain jersey is totally genuine and loving. – one of the best moments of the docu, i’d say. in contrast to that winokurov seems hard to grasp, floating around in the team doing his thing (like, almost win the tour), without really any attachments to anyone. maybe it’s just the language barrier, maybe the editing.

overall, it is amazing that pepe daquart got such intimate access to the entire telekom team. – he definitely made the most out of it.

he shows more though, than just the workings inside a team. danqart portrays the strangeness of the tour in its entirety (think “caravane”!), the glorious scenery, the fans camping out in the alps and following the tour around, the historians who deem it the greatest sport event ever, the journalists, the little villages transformed for a day for the occasion.

the racing scenes feel like music videos (in the best possible sense) with their electro-jazz soundtrack by till brönner and flowing camera movements and close ups of feet, legs, gear changes. the post race scenes are a stark contrast to that, totally quiet, zabel ponmdering the race or barely staying awake as legendary telekom physio “eule” massages his legs.

i’ll definitely watch the movie again, buy it when it gets out. its a much better 2003 tdf souvenir than any video that just shows the race as you got to see it on the telly anyway. seriously great stuff.

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