We’re used to our nature programming coming in the form of calming, therapeutic shots of wildlife and landscapes. But this documentary has ditched that idea, and instead is choosing to have us seated on the edge of our seats. However when watching this, you’ll just be pleased it’s not the edge of a mountain you’re perched on.
Luckily you’ll be warm and safe on the sofa, unlike the people featured in this film who are casually hanging off a cliff face, sometimes without a rope. And what’s even more weird, is they actually look quite happy about it? Whilst we can’t relate, we can appreciate the insane, eye-popping scenery on display in these most treacherous of terrains. This film directed by Jennifer Peedom – who also directed the BAFTA nominated, Sherpa – and accompanied by Richard Tognetti’s Australian Chamber Orchestra, celebrates the adventurous people who risk it all to climb to the world’s highest summits.
Spanning all seven continents, we watch as mountaineers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, ice climbers (and other people whose hobbies involve scaring themselves half to death) as they attempt stunts and climbs that seem not only impossible, but often downright stupid. And whilst you may be tempted to watch with your hands half-covering your eyes, we strongly recommend combating your fear, for you might miss what else is going on – the views are sublime. These aerial shots of summits and trails are awe-inspiring, and we see the mountains from every angle, through the mist, above the snow-capped peaks, mid-sunset shots, and from the very beginning of the trail, right up to the top.
And the film also has the dulcet narration of Willem Dafoe talking us through the whole thing. But he’s the only voice we hear – there are no interviews with the people we see trudging to the top of these mountains, and no experts commentating the risks being taken. Instead we sit there, forced to take in the wondrous visuals before us, made all the more astonishing by the perfectly matched music behind them. Whilst maybe not one for those with vertigo, this is an astonishing, provocative film, which will either have you tying up your walking boots, ready for a ramble, or kissing the ground, grateful for sturdy floors and central heating.
And The New York Times’s Ken Jaworowski reckons this is the point, creating an “intentionally ephemeral experience. After it’s over, you don’t remember facts — you recall how you felt.” In The Guardian, Janine Israel says, “Despite its glorification of thrill-seeking, the message that runs through Mountain like rivulets over rocks is that our highest peaks are places to be revered and respected.”
It seems though, that not all are happy with though provoking telly, with Kevin Maher of The Times saying “There’s a central presumption in this often sublimely beautiful documentary that is almost its undoing — namely, that we all love looking at mountains. Or that we love looking at them so passionately that we’re willing to abandon most other movie-watching criteria for the sake of a feature-length eye-splurge.” He admits, though, that whilst “Obviously, part of you wants to shout at the screen: ‘Oh shut up!’… the other part of you will be utterly wowed by the imagery.”
First shown December 2017. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.