04. A02.

Art Festivals

Beyond the Edge 3D


This article will surround the idea of 3D Documentary, something which I had no knowledge of until viewing Beyond the Edge at Bradford International Film Festival.

Until my experience at Bradford, I have always been of the opinion that 3D films can be a bit of a cop out formatting solution to a film that wouldn’t be interesting in 2D. Films such as 3D Piranha and My Bloody Valentine 3D – these films ooze ‘novelty’ and ‘desperation’, and hide behind their 3D format in hope of disguising their uninspired narrative; films such as these have obscured the potential of digital 3D for many. So when selecting films for the BIFF trip I was instantly drawn to Beyond the Edge 3D, not knowing what to expect, with so many negative thoughts swirling around my mind…a 3D film shown at a respectable and well established film festival? A film surrounding the 1953 ascent of Mount Everest in 3D?

I prepared myself whilst being told by the large screen to PUT 3D GLASSES ON NOW, and got comfy for what turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.

The titles begin as the audience is taken higher and higher across the Himalayas, I swear it felt as if I was there (but slightly warmer) sat back in my seat engulfed in snow-capped mountain peaks and icy ridges awaiting the moment when something would fly out of the screen. This never happened, no hands reaching out into the audience, no blood splatter, everything was there in front of us and it looked real, 3-dimensional, and not for one moment fake. Instantly impressed I decided to give the film my full attention for the duration, I was hooked, as we were taken on a painstaking journey to the top of Everest.

Director Leanne Pooley portrays the evolving relationships and dynamics of the large scale team about to summit Everest with measly supplies and 1953 technology, the ups, the downs and everything in between and all in 3D. The use of original footage was truly inspired and was treated with great respect when combined with the third dimension aspect, unfolding like some beautiful collage, the film carried on.

Instead of using 3D as a novelty to mask the quite possibly flat narrative, it was the story that was alive and full of emotion, pulsating from titles to credits, it was the use of 3D that complimented the overall style of the documentary, and not the other way around. Pooley got it right, she managed to balance the mood and tone of the piece, paying homage to the important historical journey whilst incorporating a modern use of technology.

But what was especially eye opening for me was the fact that this was most definitely a documentary. It had the possibility of deforming and becoming just another flashy docu-drama or a novelty piece, but this didn’t happen, it remained true to its roots and Pooley pulled it off without a hitch.

I am an avid fan of documentary, another reason why I wanted to view the film. I began watching Beyond the Edge with a sense of scepticism, and the conditioned idea that documentary would surely be the hardest of genres to mesh well with 3D formatting, oh how wrong I was. If anything 3D should only be applied to documentary, with the exception of some action and sci-fi aside, this element of unforgiving technology really pushes the ideal of the documentary style and allows a whole new experience to be had by its audience.

I have to believe that the subject of this particular documentary had something to do with this successful partnership though – the footage and the representation of Everest was immense and 3D accentuated this wonderfully. Perhaps a documentary on the production of Victorian pottery wouldn’t work quite so well under a 3D format, but for this high-stakes visual journal it worked perfectly. By the end of this piece, I was in awe, truly present in that moment and had experienced every stage of this ascent as if I were there with them, totally forgetting why I harboured such disdain for 3D, and allowing myself to accept that on this occasion, 3D worked.

Afterward when discussing my day with my partner and roommates, I found myself without accurate vocabulary when describing my experience, so I will say to you what I said to them…..you need to watch this documentary…

Image Citation: http://www.theartsshelf.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/beyond-the-edge.jpg