Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Eli 14.1 and I went to see Everest on Friday.

Here's an interesting double, if you have time. Go see the movie, then read Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air. They both describe the same events, but from a radically different perspective.

Krakauer's book came out in 1997--it's a riveting read--and was immediately embroiled in controversy, because the families of the deceased climbers were unhappy with how their children/spouses were portrayed in the book. A Russian guide name Anatoli Boukreev, who Krakauer held more responsible for the disaster than anyone, was incensed.

Boukreev wrote his own book (also mired in controversy for outright misstatements), and some of the families wrote books, and it's been an angry mess.

The result has been the Rashomon effect, where everyone involved has a substantially different perspective. The film is told from the collected perspective of the families. The book is told from Krakauer's perspective, of course. And Boukreev's book (The Climb) is yet another perspective.

Seeing these different perspectives in a compressed period of time is fascinating. I reread Krakauer's book after seeing the movie, and it adds several layers of details (not always corroborating) to what can be shown onscreen.

The film, by itself, is bleak but excellent. In the IMAX format, the power of the mountain is overwhelming. It doesn't convey its true power--that's not possible--but it's impressive nonetheless. And it does an outstanding job of conveying just how painful it is to climb Everest--incredibly, unbelievably painful.

Krakauer's book does this as well, establishing that anyone near the summit will have some kind of debilitating physical problem by the time they get there. It's hell, and hell isn't even an adequate description.

It's not an uplifting experience, so be warned. But it is worthwhile.

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