The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain

The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain is a 1995 romantic comedy film with a story by Ifor David Monger and Ivor Monger, written and directed by Christopher Monger. It was entered into the 19th Moscow International Film Festival[2] and was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.[3]

The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChristopher Monger
Written byIfor David Monger
Ivor Monger
Christopher Monger
Produced byBob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Sarah Curtis
Sally Hibbin
Robert Jones
Scott Maitland
Paul Sarony
CinematographyVernon Layton
Edited byDavid Martin
Music byStephen Endelman
Gwalia Male Choir
Miramax Films
Parallax Pictures
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release dates
  • 12 May 1995 (1995-05-12) (US)
  • 4 August 1995 (1995-08-04) (UK)
Running time
99 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$21 million[1]

The film is based on a story heard by Christopher Monger from his grandfather about the real village of Taff's Well, in the old county of Glamorgan, and its neighbouring Garth Hill. Due to 20th century urbanisation of the area, it was filmed in the more rural Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and Llansilin in Powys.

Plot Edit

In 1917, during World War I, two English cartographers, the pompous George Garrad and his junior, Reginald Anson, arrive in the fictional Welsh village of Ffynnon Garw to measure its "mountain", but everyone in town is at church, it being a Sunday. The only exception is Morgan the Goat[Note 1] who manages the local inn and is the only redhead in the village. Most of the men of the town are away at war and the film implies that the women are visiting the inn and having redheaded children. The cartographers reach the top and do some preliminary measurements and come up with a height of 930 feet, qualifying it as a mere hill. Anson returns and reassures them that they have more accurate measurements to make the next day.

The next day, the entire village is milling around the mountain and eagerly anticipating the results. The cartographers announce that the more accurate measurements indicate a height of 984 feet, just 16 feet short of qualifying the "hill" as a mountain at 1,000 feet (305 m). The townsfolk are crestfallen and hold a town hall meeting. Morgan the Goat proposes that they raise the mountain by 20 feet, and the villagers return to the cartographers to persuade them to stay while they build a structure on the mountain, but Anson disagrees and says they have a tight schedule and they will be leaving in the morning. The Reverend Robert Jones, who, after initially opposing the scheme, grasps its symbolism in restoring the community's war-damaged self-esteem, conspires with Morgan to delay the cartographers' departure while they build an earth mound on top of the hill and make it high enough to be considered a mountain.

The next morning, everyone rallies and starts digging earth from their backyards and transporting it to the hill. The first day they make a mound that is approximately 14 feet high. Meanwhile, the cartographers' car is sabotaged, with the town mechanic deliberately fumbling around and breaking a part, informing them that a replacement needs to be brought in from Cardiff. When the cartographers try to catch a train from the local station, they are misinformed that the trains only carry coal. Morgan also enlists a local woman, Betty, to entertain the two Englishmen.

At this point, it starts raining and the mud on the hill starts washing off down from 14 to 10 feet. Morgan declares an emergency and asks the mechanic to remove the tarpaulin covering the broken car and to take it to the mountain to cover the construction site. The rain continues all night and all day from Thursday to Sunday. On Sunday, Reverend Jones encourages the villagers to finish the work they started. Upon Anson's suggestion, they also cover the mound with sod before the last light. During the works, Reverend Jones collapses and dies from exhaustion and old age, and the mourning villagers bury him on the mountain.

After the burial, the townspeople convince Anson to stay the night at the top of the mountain and measure it at the break of dawn because their train leaves early. Betty, who has gotten close to him, offers to keep him company, and they end up sharing a kiss. When Anson descends from the mountain, he informs the people that the mountain is 1,002 feet high and also announces his engagement to Betty.

Many years later, the mountain has settled down to 997 feet, thus turning back into a hill. The spirit of the Reverend buried on the mountain exhales "a hill" in a groan and all the modern day townspeople rally with buckets of earth to raise the mountain again.

Cast Edit

Production Edit

Writing Edit

In the script there is a joke which is not obvious to non-Welsh speakers. A mechanic is asked about a nondescript broken part he has removed from a car, and replies "Well I don't know the English word, but in Welsh we call it a be'chi'ngalw." In Welsh, be'chi'ngalw is a placeholder name, like "whatchamacallit" or "thingamajig" in English.[5] It literally means "what [do] you call?", and is a contracted form of "beth dych chi'n galw". The joke is made obvious in the novel published after the film's release.

Release Edit

The film grossed $11 million in the United States and Canada and $21 million worldwide.[1]

Reception Edit

The Garth

In regard to its humorous and affectionate description of the locals, the film has often been compared with Waking Ned, a comedy film written and directed by Kirk Jones. The movie has resulted in a stream of visitors climbing to the summit of The Garth, and the Pentyrch History Society and the local community council have erected a notice on the mountain to explain its real historical significance.[6]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 67% from 33 reviews. The consensus states: "With an ample serving of Hugh Grant's trademark charm, a quirky Welsh town comes together to put their town on the map in this feel-good folksy tale."[7]

Parody Edit

The VeggieTales episode "King George and the Ducky" includes a skit called "The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill (And Came Down With All The Bananas)". It quickly spirals out of control with the addition of "The Swede Who Went Up A Hill (And Came Down With All The Strawberries)".

See also Edit

  • English-language accents in film: Welsh
  • Foel Penolau, a mountain in Wales that until 2018 had been considered a hill.
  • Mynydd Graig Goch, a member of the Moel Hebog group of summits. This is a Snowdonia hill that became a mountain in September 2008 when it was measured by three Welshmen with GPS equipment and found to be 30 inches (76 cm) taller than was thought, thereby exceeding the height required to classify it as a 2,000-foot (610 m) mountain by 6 inches (15 cm).[8][9]
  • Mount Massive in Colorado - Contention arose over whether Massive or its neighbour, Mount Elbert, which have a height difference of only 12 feet (3.7 m), was the highest Rocky mountain and second highest mountain in the contiguous United States, after Mount Whitney. This led to a dispute which came to a head with the Mount Massive supporters building large piles of stones on the summit to boost its height, only to have the Mount Elbert proponents demolish them.[10][11]

Notes Edit

  1. ^ This and some other names in the film follow a Welsh naming convention: "Welsh villages used to have so many Joneses that they would commonly distinguish them by adding an occupation to the name: Jones the Shop, Jones the Steam, Jones the Post etc."[4] The occupation names typically take the form of a one-word shortening.

References Edit

  1. ^ a b "Planet Hollywood". Screen International. 30 August 1996. pp. 14–15.
  2. ^ "19th Moscow International Film Festival (1995)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 22 March 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  3. ^ "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  4. ^ "Did Ewe Know?". ewegottalove wales. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  5. ^ Geiriadur yr Academi / The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary, University of Wales Press, p. 1661.
  6. ^ "A book was written about 'Ffynnon Garw' which was made into a film 'The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain'. The location of Ffynnon Garw rather implies it is The Garth. This story is a good one but fictional. To set the record straight the Pentyrch History Society and Community Council have put up an information notice near the summit."
  7. ^ "The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain". Rotten Tomatoes.
  8. ^ "Survey turns hill into a mountain". BBC News. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  9. ^ Wainwright, Martin (19 September 2008). "The Welshmen who went up a hill, but came down a mountain". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  10. ^ Stewart Green, Fast Facts About Mount Elbert
  11. ^ Ken JENNINGS, Why the Tallest Mountains in the U.S. Are Almost the Same Height

External links Edit