Saturday, 19 July 2014

REVIEW - BEYOND THE EDGE (LEANNE POOLEY)


A bombastic achievement rendered in bombastic style. Mount Everest can speak for itself in those terms, as can the climbing of it, so while the filmmakers' exuberance can't be faulted, their lack of dignity can. Beyond the Edge opens with a troubling credit sequence that combines startling images with an even more startling score, and disembodied narration. It's the acclimatisation stretch, getting the audience accustomed to the high-altitude tone Leanne Pooley is taking with her docudrama. Is anyone ever satisfied with a docudrama? Beyond the Edge is left wanting in its evocation of the first successful attempt at reaching Everest's peak, since we're only afforded a few glimpses of the actual expedition in archive footage, and are denied the chance to look upon the faces of those involved or those connected in the present day. The voiceover serves like someone leaning over your shoulder and explaining what's happening in this photograph, and that one. Pooley stages the recreations well, though, with crisp yet artless cinematography, and a refusal to indulge in dialogue for which all who see the film will undoubtedly be grateful. Her only stylistic approach seems to be to emphasise how epic this quest was, however - she's right in that it was, but that doesn't mean it will be on film. The journey to the peak doesn't feel like the slog it ought to, since everything's depicted with such clarity and reverence, and since grandiosity is not a style which one can employ, it's an effect which a director ought to work toward and hope materialises. At that peak, it's thus easy to admire Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's bombastic achievement, but hard to share in their eventual joy.