The world’s excessive locations are having a second. Not solely is there a minor publishing increase in books about our fascination with mountains, there have been some dramatic movies too, partly pushed by advances in know-how that enable us to get intimate with these rugged landscapes in methods we by no means have earlier than. In the wake of Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest and the documentary Meru, each launched in 2015, comes Mountain, an exploration of our trendy fascination with the world’s orogenic zones.
It is a dizzying expertise. Mountain brings collectively a number of the strongest journey sport cinematography of latest years, ricocheting across the planet, from Nepal to New Zealand and Austria to Antarctica, in an exhilarating game of vertical pinball. Few of those areas are recognized. It’s the bodily fantastic thing about mountains which can be explored right here – not their precise areas. The adventurers showing within the movie aren’t recognized both, neither is what they do set in context. We are left to marvel at what the outliers of our species are able to attaining.
Mountain is Australian director Jennifer Peedom’s follow-up to the a lot grittier, Bafta-nominated Sherpa, which was all about deprived mountain folks taking extreme dangers on Everest whereas working for rich international vacationers. I labored as a advisor on that movie and was struck by Peedom’s dedication, working and residing at over 5,000 metres, to cowl each angle of a fancy story and her sensitivity to the topic. I additionally admired her secret weapon on that venture, the American film-maker and climber Renan Ozturk.
Ozturk can be the visible lynchpin of Mountain. He shot many of the arresting sequences within the movie, some drawn from his earlier work on landmark journey documentaries corresponding to Meru and the Last Honey Hunter. If you’ve been at one of many rising variety of mountain movie festivals in recent times, you’ll recognise a few of these scenes. If you haven’t, put together to be amazed. The opening sequence is Ozturk’s work, exhibiting his buddy Alex Honnold, probably the most well-known solo climber in historical past, perched on his toes a whole lot of ft up El Potrero Chico, a limestone cliff in Mexico, with no rope to interrupt his fall, casually shaking out each arms on the identical time. It’s sufficient to make your palms sweat.
Humans put into perspective in a climbing sequence from Mountain. Photograph: Felix Media
Yet regardless of all of the thrills, Ozturk’s most arresting footage is of the mountains themselves, unadorned by human intervention. There are some ravishing sequences in Mountain – the lengthy, lingering gaze of somebody enthralled and intimately conscious of how gentle within the mountains can soften and shift in moments. If the movie is a component enquiry and half love letter, it’s Ozturk who brings a number of the visible rapture, underpinned with a hovering, deeply romantic rating from the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
The movie’s philosophical perspective is developed from Robert Macfarlane’s guide Mountains of the Mind, whose eloquent phrases on our fascination with mountains are heard all through. Willem Dafoe, in a voice that appears to emanate from the throne room of the mountain gods, narrates. It may be very a lot a western perspective.
Film-maker Renan Ozturk (proper) throughout the filming of Mountain
“The idea barely existed,” Dafoe tells us, “that wild landscapes might hold any kind of attraction.” Well, up to some extent Willem. That would possibly have been the case within the Christian west, the place animist traditions had been first suborned after which subverted. In that narrative, mountains definitely had been on the cultural fringes. Yet in lots of components of the world, mountains have remained a central a part of the thriller of life and of its most urgent points too: local weather change, which isn’t talked about within the movie, and the truth that most of the world’s conflicts are fought in mountains, as marginalised folks use the wild terrain as their solely benefit.
The European fascination for mountains, born from Romantic notions of the elegant and a rising scientific understanding of how they had been fashioned, segued predictably into mass tourism. Mountain tracks the dispiriting penalties: the all-consuming ski resorts and street networks that nibble away on the wildernesses, “replacing mystery with mastery”. It additionally poses some awkward questions in regards to the influence consumerism has on the daredevils in thrall to social media. Money from Red Bull would possibly allow you to you reside the dream nevertheless it’s a hustle; the mountains neither know nor care what number of Instagram followers you have. I appreciated that Mountain watched such antics solely from afar, people enjoying their video games towards the type of throat-catching magnificence that solely deep time can present. The mountains, as Macfarlane writes, “watched us arrive. They will watch us leave.”
• Mountain is launched within the UK on 15 December; mountainmovie.co.uk
Ed Douglas’s newest guide is The Magician’s Glass: eight essays on climbing and the mountain life (Vertebrate Publishing, £14.95). To purchase a replica for £12.71 together with UK p&p go to the guardian bookshop