Watching Jennifer Peedom’s (Sherpa, 2015) Mountain is an incredibly visceral experience. As the camera faces down vertically on a precariously dangling climber (without ropes) and a sheer mountain face, the tension in the cinema is palpable. Rarely does the film allow your heart to leave your mouth, but equally the beauty of these magnificent landscapes and the soaring collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra is an intensely enjoyable escapist adventure.
Along with the spectacular score, narrator Willem Dafoe reads sections of Robert Macfarlane’s Mountain of the Mind. These philosophical musings are sprinkled throughout the film, creating a sense of narrative as it retraces humanity’s complex relationships with the great heights: ‘what is this strange force that draws us upwards – this siren song of the summit?’ Yet the narrative is loose at best, with the film’s magic lying in the cinematography and sheer hair-raising human endeavours achieved by that irresistible pull of the mountain. Masterfully pieced together from over 2,000 hours of footage spanning over 15 countries, it covers the exploits of mountaineers, snowboarders, wingsuit fliers, mountain bikers, hikers, ice climbers, tight rope walkers and (most anxiety raising) free solo climbers. The film highlights the bravery but also the insanity of these thrill seekers and treats mountains with the respect and reverence they deserve.
At 70 minutes the film seems slightly overstretched, particularly as it takes so much from the audience emotionally. However, for those enraptured by the awe-inspiring landscapes, it’s a rich visual and aural feast which sparks the adventurer deep inside us.
For those of us not willing to risk our lives scaling the heights of the world’s great mountains, this collaboration between director Jennifer Peedom and Australian Chamber Orchestra is the closest we may come to feeling the freedom, the fear and the awe which mountains offer.
CAST: Willem Dafoe
DIRECTOR: Jennifer Peedom
WRITERS: Robert Macfarlane, Jennifer Peedom
SYNOPSIS: A breathtaking visual spectacle in collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra exploring the lure of the mountain and those who spend their lives conquering them.