The Angry Corrie 24: Sep-Oct 1995

Mountaineering Movies No. 3:
The Englishman who went up a Hill, but came down a Mountain

Unbelievable. The EMF (European Monetary Fund) have helped finance a major film about the significance of heights of hills. All these years we've been going on about this and people thought we were nutters (surely "bulging-eyed lunatics"? - Ed.), and suddenly it's mainstream material. The first 20 minutes are full of classic quotes which address some of the central questions of existence:

"When does a hill become a mountain? ... Well it must be a comparative term"

"Who measured the first hill?"

"These figures are science"

"If it's not a mountain you might as well redraw the border and put us in England"

"Maps are the undergarment of a country".

Sadly, the film peaks too soon, and after explaining the use of trig points it goes downhill all the way.

So what else is it about? Well, it's an obvious allegory about Munrobagging, as its central theme is the obsessive significance given to an arbitrary height. Tension builds as 20 feet of topsoil and turf is added to the 984-foot hill bucket by bucket. (This is no coincidence - 3984-foot Ben Lawers once got similar aggrandisement.) Casting Hugh Grant as the hero is a real giveaway, though he is portrayed as a young plonker, years before he thought of writing Munro's Fables. The only false note is the statutory sex during the summit bivvy. TAC readers know too well that this NEVER HAPPENS.

Two puzzling questions remain. Why set it in Wales, and why make the film at all? Presumably Scotland was considered a bit too obvious and was fully booked by the Neeson and Gibson entourages. Just as well, given the patronising caricatures dished out to the Welsh cast. As for the film's raison d'etre, one suspects the early stages of a Euro-conspiracy to adjust the heights of summits to round numbers for easy classification, by encouraging cartographic subterfuge or inverse superquarrying. Soften up the hillgoing community, get them used to the idea of Standard Hill Unit Guidelines.

Alternatively, it could just be a slight sentimental film with dubious acting and dodgy casting, essential viewing only for TACmaniacs and Grant fans. See it soon. It won't be around for long and you won't see its like again.

Alan Blanco

Ed. - Modesty forbids that Alan should mention a reference to himself in this movie. When some Welsh teuchter asks "Who measured the first hill?", the crochety old minister snaps "God!" But readers of The Relative Hills... and TACit Tables know better, ensuring their favourite tabulator now shares a nickname with Eric Clapton.

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