Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Beyond the Edge

This wonderful new documentary tells the story of how a British expedition attempted to climb Mount Everest and how on 29th May 1953, two men Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay conquered the tallest mountain on Earth.  Hilary was a New Zealand beekeeper and Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, who together achieved something thought to be impossible.

Beyond the Edge uses archive footage from those who climbed with the group, still photography from base camps and actors in re-enactments; you get a real sense of the enormity of the challenge facing them all.

Along with fellow ground breakers of the time, Roger Bannister and Donald Campbell, Hilary shared with them a deep desire to succeed and achieve beyond the mere limitations of man.  His sheer ambition coupled with an overpowering perfectionism set Hilary apart from the British climbers, that married with his physiological advantage of having climbed in the mountains of New Zealand which held him in good stead for the expedition.

As noted in the film, this climb was the last hurrah seemingly of the British Empire as it was on its last legs as a new dawn was forthcoming in the coronation of a new monarch in Queen Elizabeth II.  The summit was reached on 29th May, and news reached London five days later on 2nd June, the day of the coronation.  Even in those days, happy accidents or PR gurus were in full effect.

The achievement in a period of austerity provided hope to a nation still suffering from post-war blues in the midst of rationing.  However, the effort of one New Zealand beekeeper and his sherpa helped rally a nation; you also get a sense from Hilary in his taped statement of the climb that he did not want to let anyone down in his task.  A feeling shared by most climbers, as in the Irish documentary The Summit (2012) of a failed K2 climb where 13 people died.

Shot with a marker for 3D distribution, the landscape photography is awe-inspiring, the pay off being the majestic 360 degree panoramic shot from the point of view of Hilary as he reaches the summit.

Sixty years after the event that still transfixes people, the conquering of Everest gets the treatment and documentation it deserves from director Leanne Pooley who co-wrote the screen story with Matthew Metcalfe.

Beyond the Edge is released on Friday 23rd May by Metrodome.

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