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A Mountain to Climb

Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival

Beyond the Edge (2014)

In a world full of C.G.I. helicarriers, men walking away from explosions without batting an eyelash and women fighting crime with only their leather trousers holding their dignity together, an old-fashioned story of incredible human achievement is a radical invention. Since the tragic avalanche on Mount Everest a few months ago that took the lives of 12 Sherpas, "Beyond the Edge" is even more so its own kind of superhero movie.

The story of the endurance and strength which Edmund Hillary (Chad Moffitt) and Tenzin Norgay (Sonam Sherpa) had to climb Mount Everest for the first time is, in this telling, not done with bells and whistles. Director Leanne Pooley and cinematographer Richard Bluck simply took a 3-D camera up to the top of Mount Everest (although other scenes were shot on mountains in New Zealand and elsewhere). The story of the first expedition to successfully summit the highest mountain in the world is dramatic enough to survive a simple retelling. Jaded modern audiences should not need much more than what this movie gives us: actors and stuntmen in period clothes, putting their own bodies on the line to demonstrate to us what it must have been like for Hillary and Norgay as they climbed up, step by step.

It’s amazing how much we as movie audiences have come to take for granted. With the advent of special effects that really have no limits, we are learning to forget basic human achievements on their own. The Sherpas who have lost their families and friends know better of course. A movie like this is a sharp and well-made reminder to the rest of us.


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