Review / ‘Mountain’ (G) *****

ASKED: “Why does anybody climb a mountain?”, George Mallory answered: “Because it’s there!” Mallory’s corpse spent 75 years on Mt Everest waiting for somebody to discover it.

The only reference to Mallory I saw in Jennifer Peedom’s documentary is a fleeting glimpse of his memorial stone. With “Mountain”, Ms Peedom has more tasty fish to fry, a stunningly beautiful documentary travelling the globe to observe mountainous regions and consider their nature, purpose, influence on weather and climate and their interaction with humans.

In March last year, “CityNews” reviewed Ms Peedom’s in-your-face doco “Sherpa” about death on another Himalayan mountain. “Sherpa” won that year’s BAFTA best documentary award. In my view, “Mountain” merits even higher peer-group praise.

It’s not entertainment in the accepted sense. Which is not to say its 74 minutes don’t grip its audiences by their most sensitive parts before sending them back to their little world, perhaps bewildered, certainly amazed, challenged, breathless and above all excited by the vicarious experience of going where few humans other than those who live among mountains really understand.

And there’s real music performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, directed by Richard Tognetti. Beethoven is a perfect companion to breathtaking images as the film approaches its conclusion.

I could ramble about humans experiencing mountains. My only qualification for such pretensions is a solitary walk along the spine of Loloata Island in PNG. Not very high, but no wider than some of the ridges along which thrill-seekers ride bicycles in “Mountain”. None of my colleagues knew where I was going, therefore dangerous. But in its own small way, beautiful, exciting and scary.

In cinema’s scary-ness pantheon, “Mountain” out-does every sci-fi fantasy, every horror exploitation. How? By its firm grasp on reality. By its truth on our planet. By the sheer complexity of mountain systems that people can’t just walk up, but aren’t dissuaded by that little impediment.

At Dendy, Palace Electric

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