Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Review - 'Life of a Mountain: Helvellyn' by Terry Abraham

In fairly short order we were treated to the BBC showing all three of Terry Abraham's films in his series Life of a Mountain, the latest being A Year On Helvellyn. Although this is the most recent addition to his series of stunning films about the mountains of the Lake District we didn't watch them in strict order. First we watched the Scafell Pike film from 2014, then the latest one, and then last night finally completed  the trilogy with the return to BBC4 of A Year on Blencathra from 2017. I loved how all of the interviewees were so passionate and eloquent, how they seemed to be just in conversation, rather than being interviewed. That takes a particular skill. They are in no way tourist films, but are deeply respectful of the everyday lives of people in the Lake District and their relationship with all three mountains and their different characteristics. Terry has clearly got better and better as a film maker and developed a sense of what worked from the first two, so much so that I would almost militantly urge anyone who hasn't seen any of them to view them in the correct order - Scafell Pike, Blencathra, Helvellyn - and see how they reach a peak of their own. A spiritual dimension definitely populated the first two, but deeper historical and social context seeped into the Blencathra film (as well as more music), but Helvellyn had the right blend of everything (and less music).

My own relationship with the Lake District is lifelong and I love it deeply. My Mum is from there, my Grandma spent time in the sanatorium on Blencathra when she conducted TB, and I've probably had more holidays there than anywhere else. For all of that my run rate on its mountains isn't great - I've hiked up a dozen, no more. I went up Catbells and Skiddaw in October last year (not on the same day) and still feel quite emotional about how much I enjoyed doing so, and with the friends I did it with, at a time we now look back on as a false dawn, when we all felt lockdown was easing. These films have drawn me ever closer to these mountains as I'm sure they will for you too. And I think we'll do so more respectfully, more sensitively and with an enormous sense of gratitude that it is possible. Thank you Terry Abraham.

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