I was lucky enough to find myself at a loose end last week in Manchester on one of the days that the Jennifer Peedom directed documentary “Mountain” was showing at the fantastic “Home” cinema and arts venue. After availing myself on an excellent pizza and glass of wine lunchtime deal I settled into my seat and was, as expected, blown away by this fantastic celebration of high places and the people who love them. Peedom is the director of “Sherpa” a film made in 2015 that looked with a critical eye at the relationships between Western climbers on Everest and the Sherpas and local guides who are often exposed to far greater risks than their clients, parts of it made for uncomfortable viewing. “Mountain” however is a celebration of explorers, daredevils and adventurers and those who risk life and limb in the mountains to escape an increasingly sterile world down below. The film opens with freeclimber Alex Honnold on the rock face and the camera slowly pans out to show the astonishing scale of the mountain that this extraordinary individual climbs without any ropes or safety gear. The cinematography is consistently astounding and Willem Dafoe’s voice over reading Robert MacFarlane’s words is relatively sparse allowing the viewer to just sit back and admire the majesty of the peaks. The film is accompanied by music played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the sounds and the visuals work in harmony to create something that truly stirs the soul.
There are amazing shots of climbers, mountaineers, mountain bikers, skiers and wing suit fliers and you can almost feel the adrenalin surging out of the screen as some of those on it perform simply astonishing feats. Whilst there is a clear admiration for those involved it isn’t an entirely uncritical script. Footage of forty plus mountaineers on Everest is accompanied by a wry “This isn’t mountaineering, it’s queuing” and there are interesting links between the pursuit of extreme sport and people “in love with themselves and oblivion”, it is particularly poignant as some of the wingsuit footage is of Sean “Stanley” Leary who died base jumping in Zion National Park. But, the overall feel of the this brilliant film is of celebration, exaltation and admiration for the magnificent mountains and those who have made them their playground. Well worth a watch even if you aren’t a diehard mountain fan.