Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘The Mountains’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2023, Movies by - April 25, 2023
Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘The Mountains’

The first of two Danish documentaries about dysfunctional families, The Mountains packs a lot of archive video of a lot of things including birds. The director Christian Einshøj’s father Soren used his camera a lot to capture birds as a way of mourning the loss that the family endured in their early years. That tragedy, by the way, is the death of Christian’s younger brother Kristoffer. That loss still affects the family, which includes Christian’s older brother Frederik and youngest brother Alex. The archive video is important here since Christian uses it to find traces of his brothers’ inner lives.

During one of the segments when Christian narrates, he says that he sees a happy child in Frederik, unable to see when the switch turned off from the happy child to the closed off adult. But some of the evidence is there. It’s as if he leaves pieces for the viewers to assemble. Frederik enters first grade two days after Kristoffer’s death, which possibly governs the life of a man who eventually works finance. In telling this story, the documentary, purposefully or otherwise, evokes references to other work. His narration reminds me of Bergman, and scenes with Alex reminds me of Aftersun.

Some viewers who have seen The Mountains have nitpicks on its ambition and its length. I have no problems with the former. After all, it’s a good low stakes documentary where its director unties the knots of his family’s neuroses. The length is equally fine. If anything, I would have liked to see a longer version of this documentary where he pushes his parents as much as he does his brothers. The Arctic road trip also feels silly, but in farness, silly is probably a good way to get one’s brothers out of their occasional existential depression.

  • Release Date: 4/27/2023
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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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