Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Wildest Dream, Following George Mallory

To the likely surprise of some I am a fan of nature films. Few do a better job at the production of them than National Geographic. They find ways to bring nature to the screen that is simply put, breathtaking. There is also their ability to tell mesmerizing story related to the images we see on screen. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and watch the screener for the DVD release of The Wildest Dream. The story looks at a potential reenactment of the climb of Mount Everest by George Mallory and his partner Andrew Irving, focusing primarily on Mallory. The images, combined with the story narration by Liam Neeson, and the following of Conrad Anker some 75 years after Mallory’s expedition in 1924 is nothing short of stunning. While the film was originally produced for the IMAX experience, it transfers over well to the television screen, but this is one that would be better served by Blu-ray technology and a large screen. It is hard enough to appreciate the images from the tallest mountain on the planet; to do so on a small screen would be like appreciating the images of the Grand Canyon thorough the viewing screen of a cell phone.

Many explorers believe evidence exist that shows that Mallory was the first person to climb Mount Everest. In 1924 the concept of doing this was rather amazing, especially when considering the clothing and equipment available. Equipment needed to provide oxygen and more. There is one section of the mountain called the Second Step which was considered at the time, the most difficult and most dangerous part of the climb. Since then a ladder has been installed to enable this part of the climb for modern day climbers. To climb this without the aid of modern equipment and the ladder was believed to be impossible, however, climber Conrad Anker along with Leo Houlding, a respected British climber decided to attempt the climb of the mountain in the same way, with the same equipment and clothing as would have been experienced by Mallory. The documentary not only shows the possibility of the climb but the likelihood that Mallory and his partner were in fact the first persons to top Everest. In the fullness of this documentary, we see the origins of the exploration, including the discovery of Mallory’s body the visual breathtaking images from the top of the world to the completion of Anker’s and Houlding’s attempt.

One of the things best known about Mallory is his quote regarding the reasoning for climbing Everest. The documentary justifiably brings out the shame that more people know the quote than they do the man who gave the quote. The quote as to why to climb Everest by Mallory was, ‘Because it’s there.’ This quote, this concept has been used for decades now as to the reasoning why the human spirit endures and strives to do more, or go beyond. Mallory some time after being asked the question responded in more detail with the following:

“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, What is the use of climbing Mount Everest? and my answer must at once be, It is no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.” ~ George Mallory

As I read the comment by Mallory, I was reminded of the Bible verse that stated, The Joy of the Lord is my strength. There is something uniquely spiritual about the discovery of purpose, the ability to do something that you were created for. In that process to come to a place where you can experience the goodness and love of God is also a worthwhile venture. Mallory I think understood that in part. One possession he took with him to leave at the summit of Everest was a photograph of his wife whom he was deeply in love with. Most all of his items were found with the discovery of his body, except for the photograph which he stated he would leave at the top of the mountain. The last time he was visually seen was 800 feet from the top of the mountain climbing to the summit. Later when his body was discovered, some 75 years later, it was determined that he was on his way down from the mountain as his body was below the point of where it was last seen. Due to the lay of his body, it was clear he was in the decent, and that the hardest part of the climb was achieved once he had made it over what appeared to be the 2nd step of the climb. What was once thought impossible was later proven possible by the exhibition team retracing his steps. Mallory’s joy came in part from doing the impossible, he seemingly shared that moment with the person he loved the most, his wife, albeit she would never discover the reality of the fact that his body would be found without her photograph.

Mallory experienced more than the joy of accomplishing his dreams though, although he never shared those dreams with others, he likely got to see things that no man had ever seen before. The images provided by National Geographic show the majesty and beauty of God’s creation. The book of Romans says that God has revealed himself through nature. Without trying to get into the debate of creation vs. evolution, I don’t believe it possible to look at the majesty of the planet and not see a Divine Creator. A recent discussion with a PHD friend helped illustrate this point to me. While many think it takes faith to believe, which it does, he explained to me, that it takes faith and the lack of logical conclusion to look at certain attributes of creation and/or the human experience to not believe in God, and in fact, taking that belief not only requires faith, it requires a lack of wisdom and logic. We both came to the conclusion, it is more illogical to see the majesty of the planet, and the drive of the human spirit and believe in the concept of coincidence than it does to believe in the drive of the human spirit and reality of a God.

The Wildest Dream is an incredible film. I especially enjoyed viewing it after my reviews of recent of what seemed like incredible flops. There is an advantage of seeing a screener and there are disadvantages. The advantages are I get to see the copy of the film prior to release, or prior to final packaging and product finish. One of the disadvantages in the case of a DVD is it is short of the special features and other things which I like to review. I can say this for this film, even without the benefit of viewing the special features. With The Wildest Dream we have a special movie. There is a worthwhile, entertaining and educational story and images that go beyond description. It is a film worth not just watching, but a film worth owning. I challenge the viewer to watch, even if you have no interest in mountaineering, it will give you a respect for those who choose to go after dreams, and it will be a breathtaking experience with the images only few have ever experienced. Thank God for the development of technology that now provides that opportunity for all of us.

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