'The Summit of the Gods' Director on Mallory's Camera and the True Story Behind the Film

The Summit of the Gods explores the story of two Japanese men who climb Mount Everest after one of them discovers George Mallory's missing camera.

Directed by Patrick Imbert, the French-language animation centres on journalist Makoto Fukamachi (voiced by Damien Boisseau) and his quest to find Habu Joji (Eric Herson-Macarel), as well as their survival in the harsh climates that took Mallory and Andrew Irvine's lives.

It draws inspiration from real events, and Imbert spoke with Newsweek about the true story behind the film.

IsThe Summit of the Gods a true story?

The Summit of the Gods is based on a novel and manga of the same name, the first written by Baku Yumemakura and the second by Jiro Taniguchi, respectively.

While Fukamachi and Joji aren't real people, Mallory and Irvine certainly were and the two mountaineers disappeared in 1924 during an expedition on the Himalayan peak.

Mallory's body was found in 1999 but Irvine still remains missing to this day, and the former's camera is something that historians and mountaineers alike have been keen to find since their death, because they feel it will prove whether or not Mallory and Irvine made it up to the summit, or not, before they died.

"When the novel was written the bodies hadn't been found at all, so the novelist was free to write whatever he wanted for the end of the story, and for the manga it [was] the same," Imbert explained of the film's storyline.

"But in the meantime there was an expedition, there were a lot of expeditions looking for them and they found Mallory's body, but unfortunately he didn't have the camera with him so the mystery is still [around].

"There is still a mystery because they haven't found the body of Andrew Irvine, and maybe he's the one with the camera. We don't know. Everybody's looking for Andrew Irvine's body."

Why is George Mallory's camera included in The Summit of the Gods?

Unlike in The Summit of the Gods, Mallory's camera still hasn't been found in real life so no one knows yet if the pair were able to make it.

But while Imbert included the camera in the film he was keen on not making it the centre of the story, instead preferring to focus on Fukamachi and Joji's journey and what they learned through climbing Everest.

Calling the camera "convenient", he said: "Hitchcock used to call it a MacGuffin, it is anything that allows the story to start, to begin, right? So it's more or less this."

In the film, Fukamachi is given the camera and discovers the truth behind Mallory and Irvine's ascent when he develops the photographs, but Imbert chose to keep this hidden from viewers because he "didn't feel comfortable" with giving a definitive answer to the ongoing debate.

Imbert explained: "In the manga, at the end, there's a kind of tribute to [Mallory and Irvine] and they have the answer on the picture, Fukamachi has the answer and the reader knows what is on the picture.

"But when I had to adapt [it] I didn't feel comfortable with this, because, for me, it's not important to know what happened. So I changed the story.

"But, still, it is a real story. But I tried to make [the camera] less important, so it's important but [the focus] veers more and more towards [Fukamachi and Joji]."

Imbert added that while the camera was key to Fukamachi's character arc, he was meant to find more meaning to life through the journey he went on, rather than because of the device itself.

"Everything he experienced to get to this point leads him to think 'ok this is not important anymore', and this is the message of the movie.

"It changes him and the message is no matter who was first at the summit, no matter who was better we don't care, the main thing is to do what you want to do."

The Summit of the Gods is out now on Netflix.

Summit of the Gods
"The Summit of the Gods" follows the lives of two Japanese men who climb Mount Everest after discovering George Mallory's missing camera. Netflix