A Brief Film Review: The Summit of the Gods

In the age of Tik-Tok’s quick, attention-grabbing effects on the minds of a generation who has been witness to new technological developments in media (far beyond what was ever imagined before) I sat down to a film that engrossed me like no other. I was already interested in that weirdly obsessive pull people have towards Mt. Everest because of the docuseries called Everest: Beyond the Limit. You can find it on Amazon Prime and for some reason it is this weirdly addictive rush of on-screen adrenaline that I’ve never found before. And even beyond Everest, my love for a good film in 2-D like the ones crafted by Studio Ghibli is a form of film I’ve started to appreciate more and more every day. This film though I realized is most relevant to my own interest in the storytelling itself. The writer used a story within a story, a sort of meta moment, to craft this deeply obsessive in nature, raw and engulfing narrative. This film is about the idea of someone trying to write a story about a story that tells a bigger story. The original idea is with Makoto Fukamachi who is attempting to write a story he first realizes might exist. The secondary story is the mysterious camera that might have belonged to George Mallory in one of the first attempts to summit Everest that ended in his demise (with no known conclusions of the outcome of the climb itself). And the third story is the tale of a climber named Habu who Fukamachi ends up following to discover the questions he seeks to find for his story. Only for Fukamachi to realize that the conclusion he was after, much like the ones Mallory and Habu climb for, cannot be discovered, conquered, or accomplished with one simple answer, a singular arrival at the top of the mountain. Instead, the time-bending narratives questioning why we exist, what the meaning of life is, and what makes us feel alive— these are instead the peaks that we summit as viewers.

So often we find ourselves in the running shoes that Fukamachi wears when he runs around urban Japan while questioning not only the story he is seeking to write but the validity behind it. Why as storytellers are we so often drawn to the obsessive, the addicted, those who have a blinding passion? Perhaps it is because we have that same fire in our quest to tell the truth? Or is it envy? Are we envious that people like Habu who Fukamachi seeks out, have this clear mountain quest in front of them? That while we have to navigate terrains of bureaucracy and never ending questions of what kind of story should we write next… That people like Habu have blinders on and instead trek up the mountain until their death. In the same way that his film created a juxtaposition between abstract landscape animations with raw and jagged mountain top edges— scenes of death and destruction but scenes of intense autonomy in the choice to attempt these adventures; in the same way that this film creates a new dimension where any binaries are destroyed by a snowy avalanche, comes a new medium. A new medium of story is what makes this film so special, one that examines the question of the purpose of life itself. So often in our lives do we question the reasons for our existence, but I guess it takes dangling from a mountain, or the chance of that, for one to truly realize their purpose. This is a film that looks at both a storyteller and his story: something that examines life’s biggest questions. Or, as Habu says,

“Some people search for meaning in their lives. Not me. Climbing is the only thing that makes me feel alive. And that’s what I did, right till the end. No regrets.”

In the same way that I wonder why Habu climbed to the end, I guess I could ponder why I keep writing? The answer is something we share in common. 

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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