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Mountain leaves you feeling peaky

Exhilarating documentary narrated by Willem Dafoe features stunning footage

14 December, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Directed by Jennifer Peedom
Certificate PG

THE opening scene of this arty documentary made me unleash a stunningly offensive barrage of swear words in my inner monologue.

For vertigo sufferers, a shot of a man with no ropes clinging to teeny hand holds thousands of feet up a cliff is unsettling in the extreme.

Narrated by Willem Dafoe, with a score provided by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and every scene stunning, this is like a moving copy of National Geographic.

And it holds the attention for long, slow sections as we are repeatedly told that mountains are both very high, can be dangerous environments and hold a fascination for people who like the outdoors and doing stuff that offers risk.

However, the constant homilies do wear a little bit – there is much about the frozen majesty and the claim mountains are almost spiritual beings in terms of great big things on Planet Earth. Yet it lacks documentary insightfulness. This is no Blue Planet on dry-ish land. There is not much in the way of the geography lessons offering reasons for them occurring in certain places, nor much social history about humans fascination with them, except to say it is a relatively new thing.

Nor do they say much about the issues regarding the effect climate change is having on mountains – the glaciers, for example – nor the effect the holiday trade has, either, except a small part stating Everest is now considered to be basically a long trek organised for people with a few quid, and the capture of extreme sports by drinks firms looking for YouTube hits… but this crass commercialisation isn’t pursued through more than just a soundbite or two.

These are minor gripes of a piffling matter, though, as Mountain smothers criticisms with its footage and soundtrack. The footage of people clambering up slopes, clinging to rock faces, throwing themselves off cliff tops and much more is stunning, and I spent much of the 80-odd minutes this film runs for feeling either exhilarated or sick from the vertigo-inducing scenes that flow from one to another.


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