This spooky, entrancing archive doc – newly restored, with an eerie, magical score by Simon Fisher Turner – was the official film of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s doomed attempt to conquer Everest in 1924. It begins as a slightly awkward, if valuable, piece of ethnography as we meet Tibetans and read about their musical skills and lack of washing. But once the expedition gets underway, our eyes widen as this exploration tackles dangerous, virgin territory.
Death hangs over the film like mist at altitude. We’re now used to cameras behaving like mountain goats; few places remain unconquered by tiny digital cameras. But here we have to sit patiently and watch long unfolding shots from unmoving cameras as tiny specks of men disappear into the distance. And yet the effect is immediate and gripping, partly as we realise the potential cost for both climber and cameraman. If you’re curious as to what happened to Mallory, a quick search on YouTube will uncover another ghostly film: an account of the discovery and reburial of his body in 1999.