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This spectacular mountain film is released in the UK on 15 December. Chris Townsend thinks it’s magnificent

This review was first published in the January 2018 issue of The Great Outdoors

Mountain is a spectacular new film by Jen Peedom, best-known for her 2015 documentary Sherpa. For mountain lovers it’s a visual delight, packed with dramatic, awe-inspiring and beautiful images from mountain ranges all over the world. The photography is tremendous, much of it aerial with the camera zooming in from wide ranks of jagged peaks to details of cornices and cliffs. Tiny figures, little dots showing the immensity of the mountains, become identifiable people edging along knife-edge arêtes or up sheer rock faces.

The film is not just a sumptuous feast of mountain images though. The main theme is our fascination and obsession with mountains and how this has developed in the last few centuries. This is told in striking image sequences and in the wise words of Robert Macfarlane, spoken slowly and with authority by Willem Dafoe. Tied to the images and words is a wonderful musical score, played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. This rises and falls with the photography, sometimes elegiac, sometimes majestic, sometimes frantic.

There are black and white photos and clips from the past showing how the attractions of the mountains slowly developed, culminating in the first ascent of Everest in 1953. Then the film turns to the rise of mass tourism in the mountains and the downhill ski industry with more archive footage of cable cars being constructed and trees felled for pistes. The modern day comes next with a sequence of crazy stunts from skiing and snowboarding off cornices and down avalanche chutes to mountain biking off desert cliffs and along the Cuillin ridge (many readers will recognise this bit), to finally culminate in lines of people queuing up Everest.

The film calms again before the end, allowing the viewer to relax and go back to enjoying the mountains rather than feeling terrified and exhilarated by the adrenaline seekers.

I’ve watched this film twice and enjoyed it more the second time. It’s magnificent. I’ll be watching it again.

Chris Townsend

Header image: Brooke and Ally arrive on the summit of the Aiguille Verte