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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Narrator: Willem Dafoe
Distributor: Dogwoof


Certificate: E
Release Date: 29 January 2018

Only three centuries ago, setting out to climb a mountain would have been considered close to lunacy. Mountains were places of peril, not beauty, an upper world to be shunned, not sought out. Why do mountains now hold us spellbound, drawing us into their dominion, often at the cost of our lives...?

So, begins the narration for Mountain (2017. 1 hr 13 min 33 sec), a film directed by Jennifer Peedom. The narration is written by Robert Macfarlane and read by Willem Dafoe. The film is a collaboration between the film makers and the Australian Chamber Orchestra playing a Richard Tognetti composition. The superb cinematography was captured by Renan Ozturk.

The film is not unlike Koyaanisqatsi in its ability to show the sweeping beauty of the planet, but whereas Koyaanisqatsi tried to show a life out of balance, Mountain is a film concentrating on one single aspect of the planet, the great peaks of the world.

What starts out looking like its going to be a visual tone poem soon turns into a history lesson. As such, the magnificent vistas are quickly replaced by black and white archival footage which only lasts for around ten minutes before the film switches back to modern day and the contemplation of both the mountains and the people who live on and around them.

The film perfectly captures the lonely beauty of these granite cathedrals, both with impressive overviews as well as the use of time lapse photography. A great deal of the film dwells on man's relationship to mountains, so we get shots of them being climbed on, skied down, jumped off and some loon tight rope walking between two peaks. If the film has a message it’s that mountains, like the deep ocean, still offers danger in its discovery.

The Blu-ray disc comes with audio options for PCM Stereo and Dolby true HD5.1 Surround Sound. Neither affect the film, which is essentially silent, nor do they make much difference to the clarity of the narration, however the 5.1 track really opens up the orchestra.

The extras kick of with an ambient cut of the film (1 hr, 13 min, 33 sec) which is a cut without narration and my preferred version. There was nothing wrong with the script or its delivery, but sometimes its more impressive to just show and not tell. It also allows the impressive score to shine that much brighter.

The Making of Mountain (24 min, 50 sec) has the main contributors talking about the film and their own relationships with mountains. There is an interview with author Robert Macfarlane (34 min, 31 sec) discussing the film. The disc closes with the Theatrical Trailer (3 min, 37 sec).

As an essay film I thought that the narration sometimes interjected into what should have been moments of wonder, so I was glad they included an ambient version. The cinematography of Renan Ozturk perfectly captures the beauty as well as the danger inherent. The film was probably best seen in the cinema, but if like me you missed it then the Blu-ray does a fine job of capturing the experience.


Charles Packer

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