The official film of the ill-fated 1924 attempt at Everest has been spectacularly restored by the British Film Institute. It’s the most majestic and spooked of age-of-conquest documentaries, reverberant with the intimations of nature’s indifference that the filmmakers could scarcely ignore when reviewing their remarkable footage. A new musical soundtrack by Simon Fisher Turner, utilising electronica alongside Nepalese instruments, underscores the haunting effect.
“In June 1924 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine walked to their deaths, disappearing from the view of their fellow explorers on the north-east ridge of Mount Everest. That there was a film-maker, with a customised camera and a telephoto lens, on hand to record any of their final steps is impressive, even when viewed from the age of citizen photojournalism. The documentary that Captain John Noel crafted from his hard-won footage is an astonishing movie… Modern viewers may squirm at the contrast between Noel’s reverent approach to the mountain and his condescension toward the Tibetan locals. But it’s the chill grandeur of his images, and the mystical note in his rueful conclusion, that will linger in your mind.”
— Pamela Hutchison, The Guardian