ITALIA K2 – Riprese di Mario Fantin


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Footage shot by Mario Fantin for Italia K2 by Marcello Baldi (Italia, 1955) selected and edited in 2021 by Andrea Meneghelli, by kind permission of Club Alpino Italiano (CAI, the Italian Alpine Club). Texts by Albino Ferrari. Original music by Teo Usuelli adaptaded and orchestrated by da Daniele Furlati with permission of Michele dall’Ongaro. Produced by CAI, Italia K2 by Baldi was restored by Cineteca di Bologna in association with CAI Film Archive and Film Centre supported by the Italian Ministry of Culture. The film was restored in 4K from the original reversal print and sound negatives as well as a dupe positive to fill in for the missing sections. Grading used a vintage 35mm print, preserved by Cineteca di Bologna as a reference. Restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.

In 1954, the Italian Alpine Club, CAI, sponsored an alpine expedition led by the geologist Ardito Desio which on 31 July climbed K2, located in the Karakorum sub-ridge, for the very first time. It was a very difficult undertaking, not only because they had to climb the 8,608 metres of the second highest peak in the world. In order to reach the base camp (at 4,970 metres), they also had to complete a 240km march on foot, crossing rivers on rafts and suspension bridges made from flexible branches, and overcome two glaciers with 600 tributaries… Aside from the huge mountaineering challenge it was also a demonstration to Italians and to the world as a whole that, nine years after the end of the war, Italy could finally relegate the memory of defeat to the past.

The expedition was shadowed by the cameraman and director Mario Fantin, who was already well-known for his mountaineering films and photographs. The shoot made use of various 16mm cameras, a tripod to stabilise the images, and 16mm Kodachrome stock. Fantin took all the shots up to the 6,560-metre point himself before he was obliged to stop and instruct the climbers so that they could document the final part of the ascent. Never before had film been shot at such an altitude.
When the expedition returned, CAI handed the directorial duties over to Marcello Baldi, who came from the Alpine city of Trento and was an experienced documentarian. To the footage of the expedition already shot, he added a counterpoint shot in Italy and two voiceovers. The premiere of Italia K2 took place on 25 March 1955 in the presence of the Head of State, Luigi Einaudi. The film was very successful, taking 360 million at the box-office, slightly less than Becker’s Touchez pas au grisbi and slightly more than Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder.
The restoration of Italia K2 was carried out by the Cineteca di Bologna in collaboration with the CAI Film Archive and will be premiered next year for the 70th edition of the Trento Film Festival. Working on the film, we fell in love with the images shot by the Bolognese Mario Fantin. As this year marks the centenary of his birth, we decided, in agreement with the CAI, that on the closing night of Il Cinema Ritrovato 2021 we should screen a version of Italia K2 that makes use solely of the footage shot by Fantin, without voiceover and with subtitles that recount the most salient points of the action, and which salvages the music for orchestra and choir written at the time by maestro Teo Usuelli. This restoration reinstates all of the emotional power of Fantin’s images and of the endeavours of the men of the expedition – the climbers, the Italian researchers, the Hunzas, the Pakistanis, the Balti Sherpas. The images are so potent that one gets the sensation of witnessing the last human odyssey on the planet. And the footage, freed from the rhetoric of the period, allows us to rediscover Fantin’s ethical gaze. In impossible conditions, he was always capable of choosing the perfect framing to recount the deep spirit of this adventure, the relationship between man and nature, the supreme beauty of the mountains, and the human challenge of overcoming one’s own limits.

Gian Luca Farinelli

Copy From

Courtesy of CAI