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NY Times Review: 'Mountain'

NY Times Review: 'Mountain'

By Ken Jaworowski

May 10, 2018

For those terrified of heights, “Mountain” will be a nonstop nightmare. Yet big scares are a small price for the awe-inspiring footage you’ll see. As for what you’ll hear, that takes a little explaining.

The documentary, directed by Jennifer Peedom and filmed by Renan Ozturk and a collection of other cinematographers, presents a nonstop sequence of mountains on all seven continents: breathtaking ranges and snow-capped peaks are seen from above, below and on their slopes. Additional footage includes climbers, skiers and extreme mountain bikers taking risks that seem beyond outrageous.

Those scenes are delivered without any information about what is onscreen, and with no interviews with experts or the thrill-seekers we watch; this is a free-flowing meditation on mountains that is billed as a collaboration in which “images, music and poetry are given equal weight.”

If that’s really the intent, it’s a futile one: the visuals, as expected, overwhelm all other aspects, and the words, written by Robert Macfarlane and narrated by Willem Dafoe, often strain to seem profound. The music, primarily classical selections performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, is more successful than the voice-over as it supports the images and heightens the tension in the most intimidating scenes.

“Sherpa,” Ms. Peedom’s previous film, took a traditional approach to documentary when she chronicled Everest exploration and the guides who work with climbers. After that film ended, its details lingered in the mind. “Mountain” is the flip side of a similar subject, and an intentionally ephemeral experience. After it’s over, you don’t remember facts — you recall how you felt. 


Director Jennifer Peedom

Writers Robert Macfarlane, Jennifer Peedom

Star Willem Dafoe

Running Time 1h 14m

Genre Documentary