review by Sophia McDonald
The central figures of this narrative are, unsurprisingly, the mountains. Sweeping shots exhibit them as sights to behold. Their being has induced people to worship them and hold them in the highest regard for centuries. Undeniably colossal, they mystified their audience until they were conquered. Now, as reverence has been lost, they are treated as mere entertainment where the rush of danger is the goal.
This is the subject of Mountain, a documentary by Jennifer Peedom, which explores the history mountains have shared with the human race. Willem Dafoe narrates as the camera pans across snow covered ranges. Their presence is imposing and their vastness is emphasised when a speck is distinguished on a sheer cliff face to be a person. Orchestral beauty also features as the Australian Chamber Orchestra provide the epic soundtrack.
The first question posed is “What is the strange force which drives us upwards?”. Introduced as giants that provoke us, Mountain does not shy away from the danger that arises from attempting a climb. Whilst climbers place their trust in their fellow risk takers who trek with them to the peak, they too have confidence in the mountain. The cliffs and bluffs, the ridges and precipices fuel dreams and desires.
This film is an ode to nature and has the audience in awe at the wonders of the world. A brief history illustrates how the relationship between these treacherous landscapes and humans has evolved. Prior to modern climbing, the ranges were seen as homes to either the holy or the hostile, to gods or monsters.
A love story was born once man felt he had the power. Adventure replaced respect. Adrenaline pumped through the veins of those who had devoted themselves to reaching the top. Everest became the epicentre of risk taking. Once this beast was defeated, a flag planted at its peak, its mystery disappeared.
Since then, the mountain has lost its enigmatic air. It’s being treated as a commodity. Those who long for the rush have turned to even more dangerous practises. Scaling to great heights doesn’t cut it anymore. Practises such as extreme mountain biking, which involve parachuting from summits and wingsuit flying push adrenaline junkies to the limit. Tightrope walking between towers of rock, the drop thousands of metres down, instils an addictive fear into those who want a taste of the extreme.
Ski resorts fool the average person into thinking that there is safety in crevasses and snow. Mountain makes the point that just because we have explored these immense monsters and have scaled their walls does not mean they have become any safer. They are indifferent to us and embody how insignificant we are in the universe.
Mountains are forces of nature that support wildlife and are ever changing in their shape and form. Mountains provide us with exhilaration, but this documentary does not glorify the way in which these beasts can annihilate at any moment.
Beautiful and awe-inspiring, there is no hero or enemy in this documentary. Mountain displays the way in which everything revolves around mountains and how they shouldn’t be relied on no matter how many times they have been scaled. They invoke a wildness in humankind which is irresistible and show us what oblivion looks like yet they should be revered and respected. Mountain enlightens the audience and leaves the viewer in awe at the beauty of nature.