“Mountains Restore Our Wonder And We Need Their Wildness”


In the beautiful documentary Mountain, director Jennifer Peedom reminds us of our deep relationship with nature, specifically the pinnacles. She is obviously someone who loves mountains and she hears the melody that they hum, she’s enchanted and mystified by it. That’s the feeling you get as you watch this beauty of a film. In Mountain the viewer is gifted with images you would never see, summits you will never ascend, risks you would never take and dangers too numerous to mention. All of that with the Australian Chamber Orchestra playing Vivaldi, Chopin and Beethoven in the background and the craggy, worn voice of Willem Dafoe narrating you through our complex history with these impossible peaks! Mountain is a gift for the eyes, the ears and for your dreams!

The views are simple and stunning, no need for insane edits with these long shots. Cinematographer Renan Ozturk, also called “The Guide”, let’s the camera linger on scenes. Like a Where’s Waldo Book, it takes a while for you to find the climber amongst the rocks and rills. It’s a reminder of how small we are compared to the monstrous mountains. That’s where Peedom starts, with the ancient thought of mountains being the home to the gods and they are only safe at a distance. Mountain takes you from the holy and hostile summits to the adventure and hypnotizing heights. As time passes “fascination replaces trepidation and adventure replaces reverence.” And then we are in the early 1900’s and mountaineering and the excitement of exploration have trumped the fear of fairy tales and superstition. Antique, sepia tinted films show women in long, modest skirts and big boots gingerly climbing up the wild landscapes and men happily smoking pipes on the crests they have conquered. We are no longer small, we are as large as the mountains themselves and we have replaced the gods!

“You want to see these large as life expanses, feel the vertigo and experience the insane thrill of life on the edge!”

There’s a jump forward and now the viewer is faced with the modern worship of mountains. Obsession and thrills have replaced fascination and adventure. Our everyday lives feel so small and safe, danger is now desired. “For danger can hold incredible joys!” And we see the ski slopes, the ski lifts, the colorful ski bibs and jackets, the massive ski trails. All this to feel the butterflies in our stomach, the crisp air on our faces! The snowboarders are there too with the moguls and jumps and the rush of excitement when a trick is landed. Does the obsession stop there? No, there’s extreme mountain biking, and wing suit base jumping, parachute skiing, “risk is it’s own reward.” These high stakes offer high rewards and they are sponsored by big names and brands. The obsession gives way to management and money. And looming above all this risk is the perilous Mount Everest, the ultimate prize! Climbing Everest allows the ordinary person to become extraordinary, to accomplish something few others have attempted, to live where others have died! But with global travel and the commercialization of adventure the masses have encamped Everest, and “it’s no longer climbing, it’s queuing.” No longer gods, we are conquered and managed by our own desires. 

Lastly Peedom leaves the viewer with the age and wisdom of the mountains. How are they formed? How do they move? How long do they live? The mountains stretch into eternity and they are self satisfying and supplying. Like the gods they don’t need us and they are indifferent to our humanity. That mystery and aloofness is what draws us to sit amongst them and meditate on their lessons. Mountain, gives you all that wonder and wildness and makes you dream of adventure. As soon as the documentary is done you will be looking up plane tickets and singing like Maria in The Sound Of Music!

And in what other film are you going to see, Antartica, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, France, Greenland, Iceland, India, Italy, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, Tibet and the USA? Okay, so Rick Steve’s adventures have some of those exotic locals but… they don’t have Willem Dafoe reading the poetry of Robert Macfarlane in the background! The quiet strength from the seasoned storyteller is perfect for Mountain. Dafoe himself feels like a mountain, weathered and wise he speaks of his rocky peers and friends. I could go on and on, I was spellbound the entire 74 minutes, right through the credits! Again, Mountain is a gift, an extravagant gift to the viewer and it should not be missed on the big screen! You want to see these large as life expanses, feel the vertigo and experience the insane thrill of life on the edge! Mountain opens in select theaters nationwide on June 15th.