Feeling and Form: Our Review of ‘Mountain (2017)’

Posted in OVID.tv by - November 22, 2022
Feeling and Form: Our Review of ‘Mountain (2017)’

By the end of this review of Jennifer Peedom’s Mountain, I’ll decide whether or not the documentary is good. And whether that quality is because of or despite of that quasi-familiarity. One way of looking at this documentary is that it condenses the history of humans’ relationship with mountains. And it does so in less than 75 minutes. There’s the brief obligatory mentions of the people, Indigenous or otherwise, who live on those mountains. But after the first act, it fast forwards to the past three centuries or less when Europeans scrambled to colonize everything including the highest peaks. There’s archive footage of the early days of cinema, showing, on a high angle, groups of people walking snowy slopes. And it eventually shows the commercialization of those mountains and the many kinds of death defying risks one takes on high altitudes.

Many of the images here are breathtaking. This is is what viewers expect in a nature documentary that has its few surprise elements. One, I almost forgot, is that yes, this is a history of humans’ relationship with mountains. But it spends 1%, if at all on those facts and care more about the feelings that modern humans – Europeans that is – have with these formations. Mountain also tells this quasi historical lesson and makes sure that human beings figure into the documentary. It mixes some of those breathtaking shots with mundane ones. It shows us both the man made avalanches and the flat surfaces where humans walk. We shape these mountains like we do gardens. We won’t mistake this from the slideshow that comes before we cast something into our smart TVs.

Viewers can, however, mistake the images in Peedom’s Mountain as a clip show. And the history lesson is here thanks to Willem Dafoe’s narration. It’s his most subtle work, but him toning things down doesn’t change the fact that his narration has the tendency to sound like B-level philosophical musings. That’s what it sounds like even if he’s talking about the people above the average snowboarder, like the mountain climbers and their sherpas who don’t always finish their journeys. Another element that adds to the familiarity of this documentary is the score and I wish the musicians were playing full original material instead of Vivaldi. Making all the elements pretty can only get a documentary far enough. But that’s something that Mountain doesn’t fully do, and this authenticity and its roughness saves the documentary.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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