Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Beyond The Edge 3D

Reviews - Beyond The Edge 3D

Beyond The Edge 3D

Reviewed By Vaughan Ames

Beyond The Edge 3D
Beyond The Edge 3D
The Club went on the road at the weekend for our annual visit to Rheged to enjoy its huge screen and 3D facilities. This year we had the pleasure of sharing the time with some climbing heroes from Everest; Hillary and Tenzing from 1953 in our drama/documentary 'Beyond the Edge', and Doug Scott - who climbed Everest in 1975 – to introduce the film. Doug talked about his experience of getting to the summit, before contrasting this with both the early days - when no-one even knew if humans could live at that height – and the present day when there are queues of 150 climbers hoping to reach the top.

Director Leanne Pooley's intention in the film was to bring to life the expedition as it was at the time in 1953 – to make us feel we were there with them – rather than to produce a straight documentary about the climb as seen with twenty-first century eyes. By using actors who looked a lot like the original climbers, she was able to re-construct scenes and tie them in with interviews and commentary from the time.

'Beyond the Edge' began with the team being set up back in England under John Hunt. There was huge pressure on him to get an Englishman to the top of Everest before anyone else did. This was a kind of 'last ditch' colonialism, with England trying to prove it was still a world class nation after the war (which is ironic now, given that the 2 climbers who made the top were a Kiwi and a Sherpa...)

We then followed the team into Kathmandu and through the walk-in to Everest, before the climbing proper began in the Khumbu Icefall and up the Glacier. Much was made of Hillary's enthusiasm and energy (and an amazing escape he had when he fell into a crevasse). The scenery became a star of the film, especially in 3D, with some beautiful panning shots that took you amongst the ice and down into bottomless crevasses...

Once they finally reached the South Col, the 'A Team' had a go at reaching the summit in a big push; Tom Bordillon and Charles Evans managed to get as far as the last ridge, but their oxygen was running out and they were forced to retreat. It was then Hillary and Tenzing's turn. By setting up an extra camp higher than the col they (we) finally reached the summit, with a beautiful camera shot taking us over the top and zooming though 360 degrees; though we knew we would make it, it was still a relief and the views were out of this world.

The film included some back history about Edmund Hillary, who started life as a bee-keeper before turning to the excitement of mountaineering. In New Zealand, Hillary became a national hero overnight in 1953, and remained so for his whole life; if you try to picture the English attitude to a combination of Princess Diana and David Beckham you are getting close to the Kiwi view of Hillary. Since his climbing days, he had dedicated his life to improving the lot of the Sherpas in Nepal, where he is also a hero.

This was possibly the weakness of the film; as a Kiwi film, it definitely pushed Hillary as THE hero, to the detriment of other key players in the team. That said I suspect Doug Scott was one of the few in the audience of 164 who noticed, the rest of us were content to go along for the ride and to try to get into the 1950's heads; what could it have been like for Hillary and Tenzing to camp at around 28000 feet, not knowing if they would even be alive in the morning, never mind able to climb on? How did Hillary find the nerve to climb what is now called the 'Hillary Step', a vertical wall at nearly 29000 feet? I for one was impressed and could fell the excitement as 'we' stepped onto the highest point in the world...

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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