30 January 2010

The Man Who Skied Down Everest.

Like the world is a faulty piece of electronic equipment, and somewhere a person is turning dials, consulting a manual, calling a helpline, etc, smacking the machine etc, trying to smooth out the irregularities. Because just the other day my friend Richard and I were talking about nature, and anthropocentrism, and I told Richard that, largely due to watching Planet Earth on Blu-ray, I've recently begun to think of myself as sort of this upward growing mountain, or that my life is analogous to the growth of a mountain, and my hardships are the natural result of erosive elements, the wind, the melting snow, the rain, etc*.

And then last night I watched The Man Who Skied Down Everest. The film was recommended to me by a friend. She told me, "It's funny, like Night of the Lepus." It's not, or I don't get the joke. It's a serious film in which a man, Yuichiro Miura, confronts nature manifest, Mount Everest.

The film is narrated by Douglas Rain, ostensibly from material recorded by Miura in a journal during the expedition, and the intention is for the viewer to consider all the thoughts to be Miura's. The film begins with preparations for the journey. Joining Miura on his trip is a massive, eight-hundred person beast of a crew, including the filmmakers, press, scientists, and local and Japanese mountaineers. The crew dwindles during the ascent, and when Miura skis down the face of Everest only six other people are at the altitude with him (not counting the filmmakers, and I can't tell where the filmmakers are most of the time, though they seem rather gifted mountaineers).

The skiing is a hugely suspenseful final moment, but it's not the film's only great moment. The trip up the mountain is sometimes spiritual, meditative, adventurous, and humorous. Miura's journal entries lift the film above the neutrality of a nature documentary. There are terrific moments in mountainous villages and campsites, including the final village, a village of Sherpas of course. Miura's group also passes by an Everest alumni, an elderly man who tells Miura that if he was younger he'd join him on his trip, and he tells Miura that "Challenge is what makes men." Etc accumulations of introspection and existential contemplation. There's a severe tragedy. There's practicing skiing down a mountain with a parachute.

* The Long Day Closes has a classroom scene in which the teacher lists the six causes of erosion. It's either the longest scene with the least relevance, or Davies knew I'd watch his film in the future and planted it there for me to receive, so I wouldn't feel so alone in the universe. The latter is more likely I think.

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