Mountain is a thrilling film which combines inspiring vision of the world’s great peaks with evocative music (Beethoven, Vivaldi, Chopin, Grieg, Tognetti), and poetic words.
This is a film not to be missed, a film which would reward viewing time and again. It has heart-stopping photography culled from the archives of the world’s top high-altitude film-makers, backed by a sparse and insightful commentary by British writer Robert Macfarlane.
“For those who are thrilled by mountains, their wonder is beyond dispute. For those who are not, their lure is a kind of madness,” he writes.
The film contrasts the stark majesty and vastness of mountain landscapes with the insignificance of the tiny humans who challenge them.
There are impossible scenes of climbers perched on tiny ledges or leaping from one precarious handhold to the next. Daredevil skiers leap out of helicopters to hurtle down otherwise inaccessible slopes. Crazy cyclists, flying, twisting, circling, crashing, throw themselves off ledges to land somehow upright below.
One terrified climber is captured crying as he clings to the rock: “Oh God, take me home.”
In contrast to the jagged rocks and pristine snow of the high country are amazing close-ups of an erupting volcano, with red hot lava bubbling and spiralling down the mountainside.
Mountain’s genesis started with Richard Tognetti, passionate skier, intrepid surfer and artistic director of the acclaimed Australian Chamber Orchestra.
He dreamed of creating a film showing the awe-inspiring beauty of mountains in which music from the great composers would be given equal weight with the images.
Award-winning director Jen Peedom (Sherpa) was excited at the prospect of working with Tognetti to create a film to express the allure, the mysticism and the danger of mountains.
She brought in US-based high altitude cinematographer Renan Ozurk, who had worked with her on her 2015 film Sherpa, and he introduced her to a number of other cameramen whose images helped give Mountain an international scope.
Peedom persuaded Macfarlane to write a sparse and poetic narration. Tognetti, focussed as always on the music, was doubtful about having a narration, but was thrilled when he heard Macfarlane’s words spoken by the gravel-voiced William Dafoe.
Among the unusual challenges to the creative team was fitting the film’s image sequences to synchronise with music classics such as Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major without spoiling the integrity of the music. Tognetti was more flexible with his own compositions, which were often used in dangerous and stressful moments.
The result is a wonderful combination of film, words and music.
There is also a memorable stage version with the Australian Chamber Orchestra playing live, with the film showing on a screen behind.
Mountain will open on Thursday, 21 September, at Luna Leederville.
Watch the trailer…