The Epic of Everest
The official film record of the legendary Everest expedition of 1924 is one of the most remarkable films in the BFI National Archive. Its release coincides with the 60th anniversary of the final conquest of Everest in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
The third attempt to climb Everest culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an on-going debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a hand-cranked camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breathtaking beauty and considerable historic significance. The film is also among the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery. But what resonates so deeply is Noel’s ability to frame the vulnerability, isolation and courage of people persevering in one of the world’s harshest landscapes. The restoration by the BFI National Archive has transformed the quality of the surviving elements of the film and reintroduced the original coloured tints and tones. Revealed by the restoration, few images in cinema are as epic – or moving – as the final shots of a blood red sunset over the Himalayas.
A newly commissioned score composed, orchestrated and conducted by Simon Fisher Turner (The Great White Silence) features a haunting combination of electronic music, found sounds, western and Nepalese instruments and vocals.