Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Live! From the 72nd Venice Film Festival - EVEREST - They Climb the Mountain so You Don't Have To

Everest - courtesy of Universal Pictures
(Venice, Italy) Baltasar Kormakur, the director of Everest, the opening film of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, is from Iceland, a geologically active land with erupting volcanoes, gushing geysers, as well as mountains and glaciers. Today, only about 300,000 people live on the 40,000-square-mile island, which makes Iceland the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Iceland taps into its excitable resources for energy, using geothermal energy -- heat from the earth -- and hydropower for 100% of its electricity.

Iceland was first settled by Vikings, and every time an Icelander wanders into Venice, they seem to radiate the power of a harnessed Wagner opera. During the press conference for Everest, Kormakur was asked if the movie had any Icelandic qualities. Kormakur said, "I trained for the film every day as a kid, walking to school in a blizzard."

Everest - courtesy of Universal Pictures
To me, Everest is a very Icelandic film. It is based on the real-life events of May 10-11, 1996, when eight people died attempting to summit Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. We screened it here in Venice in 3D, which made vicariously climbing up the mountain and all its extreme challenges triply vivid, but I did not quite have the sense that I was actually there on the mountain -- you are not going to get vertigo from the heights.

It is not a blockbuster in the Hollywood sense. It is an ensemble piece, about several different adventure-for-hire tour groups and their clients climbing up Mount Everest at the same time. With all the heavy-weather gear and goggles, it is often difficult to distinguish Jake Gyllenhaal from Jason Clarke. I found myself longing for a protagonist to hold onto; someone to get to know more intimately; a hero that triumphs over all odds. There is none of that -- every character has weaknesses and strengths; every character is likable and not. No one particularly stands out.

Everest - courtesy of Universal Pictures
When a violent storm with hurricane winds suddenly attacks the climbers on the face of the mountain, a slow realization takes place. Everest is not another "Triumph of the Human Spirit in the Face of all Odds" -- it is a different story entirely. It is "A Day in the Life of Mother Nature," who does not care if human beings are climbing up the face of her highest mountain on Earth. She is simply being her fabulous self, thunderbolts, lightning, blizzards and all.

That eight people died on the same day was due to many factors, the most obvious one being that too many people were trying to reach the summit of Mount Everest on the same day, and there was too much congestion at a critical point -- about as glamorous as dying on the Los Angeles Freeway. In the picture, most of the people freeze to death rather undramatically -- but, again, it is a true story.

Everest - Courtesy Universal Pictures
Why certain people have an obsession with climbing Mount Everest was not really answered; the standard "because it's there" is not a good reply. But it did cost a lot of money for the adventurers to pay for the privilege -- $65,000 back in 1996 -- and most of them were middle-aged men. Perhaps it's the same reason why a middle-aged dentist would kill one of the world's most beloved lions for sport...


Maybe it takes a director from the Arctic Circle, the Land of the Midnight Sun and the Aurora Borealis, to tell the story of that fatal day on Mount Everest from the mountain's point of view.

Everest opens on September 18th.

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

P.S. Jake Gyllenhaal just gave some girls a thrill by signing autographs on the red carpet!

Jake Gyllenhaal

1 comment:

  1. Baltasar Kormakur, the director of Everest, the opening film of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, is from Iceland, a geologically active land with erupting volcanoes, gushing geysers, as well as mountains and glaciers.

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