Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Script: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Genre: Adventure / Drama / Biography
Duration: 121 min
Amid the hypercapitalism every aspect of life is used, reduced to a product and put up to sale. All aspects of life, culture, art, sports, the entire range of interests of youth counterculture, even extreme sports, punk and underground, which are intended only to the “chosen ones”, are reduced as a product and offered to the market; all with a single goal – profit.
Nowadays everything has been seen and experienced. The average buyer blunted by enormous doses of all possible propaganda media is immune to standard stimuli. For the generations raised with brutal scenes of wars followed in real time, bizarre reality shows and bloody video games, there is nothing that would surprise them and in the search for excitement they are ready for everything, even the most brutal and extreme. In order to adapt to those needs and to sell better, the market should offer the most extreme sensations.
On the other hand, when the zeitgeist is in crisis (as we can explicitly feel at this moment, especially in terms of aesthetics, culture and cultural industry) usually certain values revive. There is nothing new in sight of the aesthetics, and we can see a kind of postmodern bricolage of different values and times, and creating an eclectic blend of seemingly disparate aesthetics, which in these conditions and for the younger generations look quite normal and acceptable. Without going into a detailed explication of these parameters in the overall culture and aesthetics, speaking specifically about film (especially commercial film), this manifests through rehashing various cartoon character stories, myths or making remakes of already cult films, film interpretations of cult novels, creating infinite serialized sequels, etc.
In light of all this, obviously we are in a moment when there is a need for fictionalization of some extreme ventures that were of interest to a specific target group only. So, once again, this time in a little more sophisticated interpretation of course, using technological and cinematographic inventions, we have a chance to look into the fictionalized Everest mount climbing, with an emphasis on one of the biggest disasters that occurred. However, in the process of commercialization of the mount climbing for the purposes of tourism, it’s no wonder that scaling on Everest was finally projected on the silver screen. Not that there haven’t been highly produced films about climbing or mountaineering, but they were targeted within the narrow niche of devotees and showed only on special events or festivals. Everest is made and depicted in a way to be shown to the broadest audience eager for strong sensations. One should also add the pompous marketing campaign that complements the commercial image of the entire product.
It is based on a true story, largely on the book “Into Thin Air”, which describes the Mount Everest disaster of 1996, as well as on other books about the expedition and some interviews with the survivors.
It happens on May 10, 1996, when two mountaineer expeditions head to Everest and reach the top of the mountain, but in their return clash with one of the most ferocious storms that completely swallows them. They are faced with fierce conditions, dreadful winds and freezing temperatures, and need to survive the descending. After all, it is obvious that the mountaineers are inexperienced by their wrong decisions in serious and dangerous conditions, and that the naive tourist impulse will cost their life. The mountain always has the last word – is a line you remember from the film.
The scenario certainly does not cover all the aspects of the expedition, nor most of the route to the top at the expense of some details that enrich the story. Despite the extremes of the events, and the shuddering, but real pictures, there is left some place for the human relations that give the film a pathetical Hollywood dimension. The commercialization of mountain expeditions, in this case, scaling the highest point on the planet, reduces the adventurous impulse only to slightly extreme tourism for the rich. Here are shown all the aspects that need to match so one can take part in such an expedition, and it is not only the personal fitness, weather conditions, but also finance ($ 65,000 per person) that one needs to have before thinking of undertaking such an endeavor.
Despite the expectations of the Hollywood happy end, that will not happen. The agency guide’s (Rob Hall) wife is going to deliver the baby alone. The Japanese Yasuko Namba is not going to climb the point of 8000 meters for the eight time, nor the postman Doug Hansen will succeed to prove that dreams are feasible for the common man. Such is the reality. Crude. Hence these characters are not great heroes, only victims and not only of the cruelty of the mountain, but as well to the naive desire to achieve their 5 minutes fame and the tacky commercialization of the visits to the Heavenly Mother. The only one who will gain from the accident is perhaps the journalist John Krakauer who wrote the book that is the basis for this film.
However, despite the commercial intention, Everest is not a naive film, in terms of reality and imagery of depicting, and as a viewer you can get an approximate idea of the mountains’ conditions, or what happens to all the mountaineering guided groups. So even if you are not an experienced mountaineer, only somebody who has experienced the true mountain winter atmosphere, it can give you an extra image of how cruel the mountain can be. Unlike previous films on this topic, the story is told rather vividly and clearly.
There is an additional dose of reality because the film wasn’t only shot in a studio, but also, on real locations in Nepal and Dolomites, in order to get the maximum of the actors, in the context of the experience and atmosphere. Fortunately, due to the extremeness of the events, there was not any need for additional Hollywood action to support the play, which makes the movie quite close and reliable. Apparently, the director realized that if he wants to have an exciting display of the climbing and the disasters of this type, he doesn’t need to exaggerate the story; the drama is exciting enough, without the Hollywood pumping action.
Also, the 3D aspect gives an additional depth and dimension to the landscape, the power of a terrifying wind, the huge glaciers and the majestic peaks which can be simply felt only by watching. There is need for a little bit of concentration until the eye adjusts to the ambience shown in 3D, and afterwards you may activate your acrophobia. I do not know how this technology would be appropriate for an average drama, but the subject and theme of this film in general are perhaps most appropriate for the application of this technology. Finally, the top Segamat (for those who live on the Nepal side) or Chomolungma (for the Tibet’s residents), should be the last place where the west culture will manifest its colonizing mentality to gain and the need of proof. It should be the last place where the tourists will fulfill their need for extreme excitement, increased adrenaline and strong sensations or will pollute the camps that already resemble mini-cities. When Krakauer asks people why they climb Everest, few of them know how to answer immediately. That says a lot about the sincerity of the urge to climb the 8,848-meters, but also why lately the mountain acts as it is.
During the filming of the movie, which refers to one of the greatest Mount Everest catastrophes, the big avalanche of April 2014 happened and 16 people were killed. The loss was greater than in 1996. Because of that the filming was supposed to be delayed.
Translated by: Gorjana JORDANOVSKA
Edited by: Robert Raman
This post is also available in: Macedonian