The official film record of the legendary Everest expedition of 1924 is one of the most remarkable films in the BFI National Archive. Its release coincides with the 60th anniversary of the final conquest of Everest in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The 1924 attempt to climb Everest was the third one, and it culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an on-going debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a hand-cranked camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breathtaking beauty and considerable historic significance. The film is also among the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery. But what resonates so deeply is Noel’s ability to frame the vulnerability, isolation and courage of people persevering in one of the world’s harshest landscapes. The restoration by the BFI National Archive has transformed the quality of the surviving elements of the film and reintroduced the original coloured tints and tones. A newly commissioned score composed, orchestrated and conducted by Simon Fisher Turner features a haunting combination of electronic music, found sounds, western and Nepalese instruments and vocals.
John B.L. Noel
John B.L. Noel (1890 – 1989). Mountaineer and filmmaker. From an aristocratic family, Noel was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, after which he was posted to India. He joined the 1922 Everest expedition as its official photographer and filmmaker and produced a short film, Climbing Mount Everest (1922). In 1924, Noel formed a private company which paid for the photographic rights of that year's Everest expedition. After the first ascent of Everest in 1953, Noel lectured once again about the mountain and his footage and photographs appeared widely in many films and television programmes.