In the beginning, mountains were sacred and horrifying places, homes to gods and monsters. Life was hard enough without tempting fate by climbing a mountain. Even for long journeys, it was best to skirt the mountains by walking around them, not over.
As time passed, however, people grew braver and starting moving not just outwards, but upwards. Ever higher they went until the ultimate feat was accomplished: the summit of Everest.
Today, a modern mountain worship has taken hold, a worship that requires modification in the form of roads to get the people to the ever expanding resorts. Social media, fueled by the pockets of outdoor industry, celebrates the exploits of daring thrill-seekers, pushing the envelope ever outward in the attempt to feed the rat.
However, this is a worship that has led not to exploration, but the need for crowd control. Summit lines for Everest now number in the hundreds on a single day. Thousands flock to ski resorts and National Parks, often creating traffic jams and noise, two things most are trying to avoid.
Ultimately, and quite ironically, mountains are indifferent to us. They’ve been here for millenia and will be here for millenia after we are gone, perhaps. We may personify them, conquer them, worship them, but ultimately we are of no consequence to them.
Mountain is a musing on these themes from director Jennifer Peedom. With head cinematographer Renan Ozturk utilizing footage from luminaries such as Jimmy Chin, Grayson Chambers, and more, most scenes are breathtakingly beautiful, interspersed with human activities that alternate between overwhelming and insignificant.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra provides the musical soundtrack to the scenery, with many recognizable classical pieces.
Though I usually think of him as a gritty urban type, Willem Dafoe ably provides a narration sampled from British mountaineer Robert Macfarlane’s memoir Mountains of the Mind.
Mountain is a beautiful reflection of mankind’s search for the sublime, the balance between fear, awe, and adventure as we simultaneously bow down to and scale earth’s giants.
*Prescreening was provided for editorial purposes – all opinions are my own.
Also check out my thoughts on Everest and Meru, 2 other climbing-related films.