MOUNTAIN. Australia, 2017, 74 minutes, Colour. Directed by Willem Dafoe.Directed by Jennifer Peedom.
Whether you love mountains or not, spending an hour and a quarter contemplating the beauty and ruggedness of mountains is well worthwhile.
Director Jennifer Peedom has made a number of short films about mountains, including Everest, and then made the very interesting documentary about the scaling of Everest, the role of the local Sherpas and their being underestimated until they stood their ground for proper recognition and payment, the growing crowds lining up to climb Everest, commercial queues, something to do rather than something to achieve. This documentary was called Sherpa.
While there is an underlying message in this film, communication is mainly visually and aurally.
Quite a number of cinematographers took part in this project, filming all around the world, in the Himalayas, in the Andes, in New Zealand, in Australia… Their material is generally spectacular and a lot of time and effort have gone into the choice of visuals as well as the editing placement for best effect. While the camera sometimes stand still to contemplate a peak, a range, a valley, much of the photography has been done from helicopters with an extraordinary sense of moving in and through and above the mountains.
Particularly spectacular are sequences of volcanoes, eruptions, the vast extent of lava flows.
We see a variety of mountains in a variety of seasons. We also see a number of the climbers, caught in what seem to be extraordinary positions, foothold on the side of a sheer cliff, hundreds of metres high; climbers triumphing through the snow having achieved peaks; climbers swinging, seemingly perilously, out into the vast void.
The particular feature of this project is the musical accompaniment. The score has been composed by Richard Tognetti who conducts the Australian Chamber Orchestra, a symphonic piece that provides background but does not overly intrude.
There is also a spoken commentary, written by Robert McFarlane, which also provides background and does not overly intrude. It is quietly spoken by American actor, William Dafoe, glimpsed in black-and-white in the studio at the opening of the film. It tends to be contemplative of nature, with a great sense of wonder, offering reflections on creation and beauty. There are some moments when we see a Buddhist priest in a small chamber, prayer and incense and mysticism.
The film offers a wonderful opportunity to be immersed in mountains.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.