Mountain review: A documentary, best viewed in its IMAX format, about the mountain, its history, and our long-standing fascination with it.
Mountain review by Paul Heath.
Acquired by Dogwoof for distribution in the UK, Mountain comes to the screen courtesy of Jennifer Peedom, who you may remember brought the stunning documentary Sherpa to film festivals and cinema screens around the world a couple of years ago. Her new film doesn’t sway too far away from her previous work, though this time completely focuses attention on the Mountain of the title – not one specifically, but the mountain as a broad subject, and our fascination with it as human beings.
Related: Sherpa review
The opening of the film sees us in the company of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, tuning up as they as they prepare to unleash their magnificent sound. There’s also the hint of Willem Dafoe’s striking, very distinguishable voice in the background, clearly talking to someone as he approaches a microphone before uttering, ‘I’m ready’.
We then cut to the mountain of the title, just one of the many we’ll be treated to in its imposing beauty throughout this tight, 70-minute insight into the splendour of its being. Sweeping vistas, accompanied by the arresting sounds of the classical orchestra follow, Dafoe’s voice guiding us through a journey into the spectacle and history of our fascination with conquering them, from the early years of voyages of exploration and map-making, through to the extreme sports and death-defying feats individuals take on in various mountainous locations around the world.
The two biggest assets are the sound and picture, its IMAX format providing a delicious feast that is worth the admission alone. Cinematographer Renan Ozturk re-teams with Peedom for the second time, crafting an elegant, well-designed look, which, when coupled with the graceful, and sometimes dramatic elements of the score, provide a hypnotic, mesmerising feeling to proceedings. This is only dashed when Peedom and screenwriter Robert Macfarlane divert our attention to the more courageous efforts of the free-climbers – some scenes are certainly not for the faint of heart – and to the extreme sportsmen and women who push life on the mountain to the limits, living their life-threatening dreams, pushing themselves to the absolute limit, staring into the abyss.
Mountain is remarkable filmmaking, but whether is more an experience than an insightful documentary. While its visuals and audible assets, which include entrancing drawl from the spellbinding sounds of Dafoe, command you to see the film in the biggest auditorium possible, one can’t help but think that a viewing in a smaller environment would take away its grandness and the overall lasting memory of it. As it stands, in the large-scale format we saw it in, Mountain is as enormous and fascinating as its subject, and quite the cinematic experience.
Mountain review by Paul Heath, October 2017.
Mountain will be released by Dogwoof on 15th December 2017.