Narrated by a solemn Willem Dafoe and directed by BAFTA nominee Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa, 2015), Mountain is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most innovative, thrilling and utterly mesmeric films of the year. Applying new rules of filmmaking to this beautifully complex production, Peedom offers a film which not only impresses technically, but also manages to carry with it a vital ecological message in a world in which high-altitude sports have turned even the most remote mountainous regions into a playground for thrill-seekers and tourists alike.
Set to a classical soundtrack performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Mountain is a unique cinematic and musical collaboration which presents its audiences with a visceral experience. Using some impressive filming techniques mixed with archival footage, the film asks the old age question: what makes human-beings attracted eternally to danger? and more importantly, what drives otherwise sane men and women into wanting to be the first to conquer the unknown at any price?
In comparing the madness of the early Everest conquerers to present-day climbers, the film makes a valid and commendable point about where we stand today, and whether we need to keep on trying to outdo each other at the expense of those who stand to suffer the most as a result of this obsession. “This is no longer climbing, it’s queuing” goes the voice-over, a sentence which carries with it a damning statement of how ridiculous things have got. With ideas expressed beautifully by British academic and conservationist Robert Macfarlane and spoken by Dafoe, Mountain never shies away from confronting the current trend for exploitation of the poorly paid Sherpa, a subject which one suspects is dear to Peedom’s heart having worked so closely with them on her previous documentary feature.
Elsewhere, we come face to face to the daredevils who have taken their love for danger into a new level of madness. From biking on treacherous mountain peaks, to snowboarding and skiing on avalanche prone resorts, the camera manages to capture some genuinely exhilarating footage of the thrill-seekers who have managed to conquer the mountains in their own way.
Despite seeming a little on theatrical side and rather preachy in parts, Mountain is likely to do to the conservation of our mountainous regions what it did to the plight of the Sherpas. Peedom, alongside cinematographer Renan Ozturk and editor Scott Gray, manages the impossible by creating a truly unique experience on a grandiose scale. By incorporating some of the most known classical pieces with extraordinary acrobatic footage, Mountain manages to entertain as well as inform, even if it sometimes relies a little too much on preconceived ideas about what drives people into the arms of danger. A genuinely thrilling piece of filmmaking which is a enchanting as it is thought-provoking.
Mountain is available in UK cinemas 15th December 2017.