It’s not actually a misnomer to call Mountain a documentary, but it feels like one. The film is more like a tone poem, using chamber music and the perfectly gravelly narration of Willem Dafoe over exquisite images captured by Renan Ozturk to bring humanity’s fascination with the biggest natural formations on earth to life. In the best way, Mountain evokes the nature documentaries I’ve so often enjoyed in the Franklin Institute’s IMAX theater. Each of those seem to have one sequence where they push the “it feels real” effect of seeing pristine 70mm images projected on a screen taller than your house, whether it be gliding over the Grand Canyon or the Great Barrier Reef.
Mountain has a few of these sequences, and I wish I could see this on a truly massive screen. The images within are truly breathtaking; a good reminder that there’s something in our core that responds to natural beauty in a way that has yet to be achieved by polygons. The colors, majesty, and remoteness of the mountains displayed within are arresting.
This is an emotional journey rather than a scientific one. Mountain doesn’t contain any facts or figures, favoring an evocative approach to nature. For someone like myself, who has never done any mountaineering that required special equipment beyond a decent pair of boots, the film does seem to capture what drives those who seek the top of the world. Falls, bloodied fingers, and more challenges stand in the way, but still they are drawn to it. Aside from the imagery, this it put forward by Dafoe’s narration, which is adapted from Robert Macfarlane’s lyrical “Mountains of the Mind.”
The spectacular footage of climbing, skiing, and other human activities set to a classical score is extremely well-edited and satisfying. It’s converging sport with art, human activity with beauty, which is something we seem to take the time to appreciate less often than nature. Attempting to ‘conquer’ mountains is a core aspect of what makes us human, and having that put front and center in such a satisfying way is a joyful experience.
Mountain opens at the Ritz Bourse today.
Author: Ryan Silberstein
Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights
as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.