Willem Dafoe and the Australian Chamber Orchestra take you on a journey not up, but into the mountain.
Director Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa, Miracle On Everest) theorises what’s within the allure of the mountain; what it does for the mind and soul, and at what bodily and environmental cost.
It’s a cinematic love letter to our most unforgiving landforms. In it, are our flaws. It was only half a century ago, for example, that scaling Everest was a feat reserved for hardened adventures who headed up mountains prepared not to come back down.
Today, our obsession with reaching Everest’s summit has resulted in overtourism. Just about anyone with the cash to afford the bragging rights is shown trekking up the face of the mountain in long winding queues. At the summit, exuberant crowds vie for a spot to take photographs.
Mountain tells its story from the earliest days of mountaineering, right through to the Red Bull branded, social media crazed, high-altitude sports and the death-wishers that turn peaks into playgrounds.
Along the way there are a few platitudes and uninspired quips that take away from the spectacular shots from drones and helicopters. Willem Dafoe’s (Murder On The Orient Express, The Great Wall) gentle baritones nicely string together some tedious sections, even if his lines are at times a little wanting.
If, like me, the closest you come to being an adventurer is throwing on a North Face t-shirt, then the most awe inspiring moments in Mountain are the vertigo inducing snippets of an unsupported Alex Honnald, clinging to miniscule cracks in a sheer rock face.
We don’t get to understand why Alex puts himself in such life threatening positions because there are no interviews in this film. Instead of understanding why individual thrill seekers crave mountainous escapism, this documentary taps into why humanity as a whole goes in search of higher ground.
Mythology and mountain dwelling gods is one theory. A simple to desire to be where other people aren’t is another. There isn’t a conclusion at the end of this essay, but it is a thrill ride of astounding beauty.