For most mere mortals who’ve never experienced the rush of being atop any of the tallest peaks in the world, nothing can ever compare to the real deal. However, the 2021 animated film ‘The Summit of the Gods’ directed by Patrick Imbert, about climbing Mt Everest, manages to leave viewers with bated breath at points.
Based on the manga by Jirô Taniguchi and Baku Yumemakura, ‘The Summit of The Gods’ is serious, gripping and cleverly combines fiction with real slices of mountaineering history. The plot follows reporter Fukamachi’s attempt to track down a man called Habu Joji, who is in possession of a camera owned by the famous mountaineer George Mallory. Both in the film and in reality, Mallory had gone missing while scaling Mount Everest in 1924. Whether he managed to reach the summit remains one of the biggest mysteries in the mountaineering world.
Unlike most glossy contemporary animated films, Patrick Imbert’s film has a very simple 90s style animation. The movie feels like comic panels in motion, although the bits with the mountain-climbing are surprisingly detailed and breathtaking, versus rest of the regular scenes.
Through Fukamachi’s reporter eyes, the makers try to explore what drives mountaineers to risk their lives and scale impossible peaks. The fictional Habu Joji is a bit of an anti-hero, he is obsessively ambitious and doesn’t lack in courage, but is also exceedingly self-centered. All he wants to do is scale the most dangerous peaks in the world and accomplish feats nobody else has. How the fates of these two men collide is a tale worth watching.
It’s laudable how the screenwriters steer clear from the temptation of exaggerating and dramatising things. Mountaineering isn’t romanticised and rookie viewers can understand the gravity of just how dangerous scaling the Everest can be. It’s no mean feat and only those with superhuman will and grit can make it to the top. Despite being an animated feature, the journey of the protagonists feels as real as it can get. The carefully picked background score helps in heightening the tension and maintaining a steady pace.
For those who have zero interest in mountaineering and prefer their movies with a lot of action, romance, humour – “The Summit of the Gods” can seem like a futile watch. But for those who are open to this genre, it’s a stunning animated film that keeps you invested in its characters till the end. For those who can see it, the story is a universal celebration of the human spirit – of how we continue doing things we are passionate about, even if there isn’t any monetary benefit in it. Or perhaps it can be seen as an existential ode – life is too short & pointless to not do things that give us an adrenaline rush/inexplicable joy.
It’s a 8/10 from me.
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Listen to Episode 50 for a lowdown on 22 Studio Ghibli films