Only three centuries ago, setting out to climb a mountain would have been considered close to lunacy. Mountains were places of peril, not beauty, an upper world to be shunned, not sought out. Why do mountains now hold us spellbound, drawing us into their dominion, often at the cost of our lives? Mountain is a cinematic and musical collaboration between filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO).
Review by Louise Keller:
The combination of the visual spectacle of the world's highest peaks and the musical magic of the Australian Chamber Orchestra makes Jennifer Peedom's documentary Mountain an immersive, meditative and mesmerising experience. The film's stars are the mountains in all their theatrical grandeur, but it is Richard Tognetti's ACO that make our experience an emotional one as its music echoes their wonder, exhilaration, dangers, drama and mystique. Music includes Tognetti, Chopin, Grieg, Vivaldi and Beethoven. Willem Dafoe's concise narration adds greatly to our experience, bringing context, colour and passion to the journey.
We glimpse the ACO tuning their instruments in the studio and Dafoe preparing before the microphone. Then we are whisked away amid breathtaking imagery of the world's great mountains; the camera panning effortlessly along the snow covered summits, unforgiving cliff edges and harsh valleys, allowing us to enter a world that makes mere mortals insignificant. The thick snowy frosting of the peaks, backdrops of flame sunsets, pink fluffy clouds and the reminder that beyond their fierce beauty, mountains are places of peril. But they are also symbols of dreams and desire.
Peedom canvasses the changing perceptions of mountains as being home to the holy and or the hostile. There are aerial shots of skiers gracefully gliding between the snow-laden firs and thrill seekers - from tightrope walkers, extreme cyclists, skydivers and others - playing the ultimate high stakes poker game. There's a lovely sense of motion throughout and the final sequence - accompanied by Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 5 in E Flat Major - is a powerful emotional experience that enhances our wonderment. It is called a cinematic and musical odyssey for good reason.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sublime, cerebral, poetic and musically evocative, Mountain takes us - it seems - to every mountain in the world (except in China I think), in what appears to be a floating armchair, sometimes high above the peaks, sometimes up close to see struggling - yet usually happy - climbers.
Combining existing footage with the new, Peedom presents a philosophical film in quest of the meaning of mountains in our lives. Her team seeks to understand the origins, nature, and depth of man's do or die attitude to the world's highest, most dangerous peaks. All by majestic and dangerous images, well crafted words and hauntingly beautiful music.
By making music such an integral part of the film experience, Peedom ensures that the image + music permeate our consciousness into those crevices within our psyche that are stirred by mountains.
My curiosity would be even better satisfied were it possible for the mountains to be identified in captions - likewise the music. But I guess that would burden the screen and perhaps distract from the almost spiritual effect.
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NARRATION: Willem Dafoe
PRODUCER: Jennifer Peedom, Jo-Anne McGowan
DIRECTOR: Jennifer Peedom
SCRIPT: Robert Macfarlane, Jennifer Peedom
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rena Ozturk, Anson Fogel (and others)
EDITOR: Christian Gazal, Scott Gray ASE
MUSIC: Richard Tognetti (+ Chopin, Grieg, Vivaldi, Beethoven)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 72 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 21, 2017