A cinematic and musical odyssey, Mountain draws us into a space where sane people may otherwise not dwell – the triumph and terror of mountains.
Mountain opens by rising up the side of an enormous, monochromatic cliff-side where a climber rests, his chin holding him onto the slightest of crevices, stretching his tired fingers. The film immediately places you in a position of vulnerability as you fall completely under the spell of the lead violin of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, which establishes itself as the primary storyteller for the show ahead.
The film is a collaboration between acclaimed director Jen Peedom and ACO artistic director and principal violinist Richard Tognetti. Mountain explores our perplexing relationship with high places, combining music and film to ask the question: are the risks taken to reach mountain peaks – physically or psychologically – defensible? Or has risk-taking replaced summiting as the ultimate reward?
Peedom’s meticulously curated visuals combine with Willem Dafoe’s steady narration and Tognetti’s elegant score to create a sensory overload in the most glorious way possible. As Mountain takes you through various stages of human interaction with these natural wonders, it becomes clear that while humanity’s fixation with mountains has become almost unquenchable, an ability to remain significant in the face of their ferociousness is still out of our reach.
The music moves through a range of styles and periods, from classical concertos and baroque, to 20th century musical works and traditional folk songs. The cinematic experience is dynamic, comprising awe-inspiring aerials, misty shots of daily and holy life in Nepal, historical footage of the earliest European mountain climbers and a grounding 21st century-style mash-up of skiing wipe-outs and climbing mis-grips.
As Tamara-Anna Cislowska’s delicate piano solo leads us to the conclusion, one thing is for sure: what remains is a hopefulness and a fondness for the peace and connectivity brought by mountains, whether at their peaks, frozen and depleted, or gazing up from below in reverence.