Epic of Everest at the BFI

EPIC - ice field (blue tone) (2)

Sixty years after the final conquest of Everest, the 1924 epic expedition of explorers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, who died battling the elements, is being shown in a new light at the BFI.

Captain John Noel’s short film the Epic of Everest remains the official record of Mallory and Irvine’s journey, the third attempt to scale Everest and simultaneously an expedition shrouded in controversy sparking widespread debate over whether the climbers actually reached the summit.

Ahead of a nation-wide release the film will have its world premiere at the 57th BFI London Film festival, with a new score by Simon Fisher Turner and restoration by the BFI and the director’s daughter Sandra Noel, which enhances the coloured tints and tones that were originally used.

Captain Noel covered the cost of filming the climb himself as both an investment and a scientific expedition, says Jan Faull, Archive Production Curator from the BFI National Archive.

“Captain Noel was absolutely in awe of the mountain,” Jill tells. “He stained his face with walnut juice and went to Tibet in disguise in 1913, got caught and was sent back. Then he resigned from the army so he could go on the second expedition to Everest.”

There were several versions of the original film, which captain Noel went on lecture tours with; though all were in black and white and he added colour to the nitrate copies. “There was so much innovation going on. Captain Noel was very keen on introducing colour to the film; he adapted equipment in hopes of capturing the ascent because the camera couldn’t go all the way up the mountain, not to mention nitrate film is flammable; the whole journey is just fantastic,” Jill says.

The Epic of Everest is not the extreme adventure type film audiences are used to, the curator is quick to point out. “It’s very different because it’s slow paced but quite magical. So far audiences have really been captured by it.”

The Epic of Everest will screen at the BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT, on Saturday 19 October. Admission: £6-£11. Phone: 020 7928 3232. http://www.bfi.org.uk/

The BFI London Film Festival world premiere will be at the Odeon West End, 40 Leicester Square, WC2H 7LP, on Friday 18 October at 6.15pm with a live score performed by Simon Fisher Turner and a musical ensemble.

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