Mountain (4 stars)


credit: renan-ozturk-and-dave-mossop

Jennifer Peedom's staggeringly immersive documentary examines the pursuit of peril

Anyone with the slightest fear of heights might want to avoid the latest documentary from Sherpa director Jennifer Peedom. Mountain is such an immersive experience that you can feel your palms start to sweat at the sight of free climbers grappling for the tiniest foothold on a sheer cliff face, a tightrope walker poised between mountain peaks in Utah, or daredevil skiers launched through the air into a scary unknown.

Staggering images are matched with the magnificent sound of the Australian Chamber Orchestra performing works by Vivaldi, Beethoven and Chopin in a Koyaanisqatsi-style film that offers a very loosely structured reflection on humanity's relationship with mountain landscapes. Willem Dafoe's voice guides us through a historical overview that advances from a point where scaling a mountain was considered madness, to a modern age where Everest has become as crowded as your local supermarket. Views of snowy mountain peaks covered in climbers like a seasoning of black pepper are dolefully accompanied by the words: 'This isn't exploration, it is crowd control.'

The headlong pursuit of peril is justified by the belief that, 'You never feel so alive knowing that any minute you could die,' but there is a real sense that Peedom's sympathies lie with the romance and mystique of the past, rather than the mass-market adventure tourists of the present.

A film that really does merit the IMAX experience, Mountain is sometimes let down by a best of times / worst of times-style of narration. Culled from Robert Macfarlane's 2003 memoir Mountains of the Mind, it veers uncomfortably towards Alan Partridge territory with some of its more pompous pronouncements; the lofty views and magical music could have made words redundant. Still, this is a great advert for mountaineering, especially for those who prefer to experience it from the comfort of terra firma.

Limited release from Fri 15 Dec.


  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • Australia
  • 1h 14min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Jennifer Peedom
  • Cast: Willem Dafoe,
  • UK release: 15 December 2017

Staggering immersive documentary about the pursuit of peril, matching images of free climbers grappling for footholds with the sound of the Australian Chamber Orchestra playing Vivaldi, Beethoven and Chopin. The occasionally pompous narration sometimes lets it down, but it’s a great advert for mountaineering.