Monday, September 9, 2013

TIFF 2013: Beyond The Edge (Pretty Good)

Beyond The Edge is an historical perspective of the first successful ascent of Everest, on the occasion of the 60-year anniversary of the feat. It combines archival footage (audio and video) with new footage shot in 3D, with actors playing the roles of Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay and others. It shows the massive effort behind the British expedition of 1953 (hundreds of sherpas and porters, and a core climbing crew of about 15) made the final push possible. It also conveyed the pressure they were under to succeed, as others had come close, and it looked like the peak was ready to be conquered, even as medical experts of the day were uncertain if the human body could survive long in the "death zone" above 28,000 feet.

I have read several books about Everest, and seen a few films, so the subject matter was quite familiar to me. Those have mainly been about modern attempts on the peak, and the chaos that comes with too many expeditions going up at once, and leaving their detritus behind (including the bodies of those who failed). This film showed what things were like in 1953, with the primitive equipment used at the time, and (in part thanks to modern film technology that allowed the cinematographer to eliminate extra bodies on the mountain digitally) the loneliness of two men finishing the ascent together. It also captured the added adventure of attempting something that had never been done before, and which not all were certain was even possible. The sense of danger was clearly communicated, the visuals were stunning, and the historical context was interesting.

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