In an indulgent and sparse documentary, we’re guided by the short bursts of narration by Willem Dafoe, through the history of mountains and the effect we as thrill seekers have on them. Accompaniment would be the wrong word to describe the compositions place in this piece, instead, it’d be much more fitting to say it’s the lead actor, playing its part amongst the sequences, so elongated it’d give Gus Van Sant nightmares. The composer Richard Tognetti¬†with the Australian Chamber Orchestra adds a vibrancy when there is none as well as provide a strong supporting part over such striking cinematography.
This piece isn’t like other documentaries and has already made quite the buzz due to its achievements with the cinematography thanks to both the passion of director Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa, 2015) and the eye of cinematographer Renan Ozturk. Although similar to a fly on the wall approach there are several empty moments that are simply dependant on the musical score to elevate it. With that being said, it may have been worth not allowing the overindulgence to go unsupervised and better to have cut many of the excessive shots from the final cut.

One moment that sticks out is the snowflake scene which involves a close shot of snow falling behind a black background and a score playing over it. The score manages to start and finish over the same shot leaving the viewer twiddling his thumbs for several minutes. This seems to be the result when a director has such talents behind them – making it that much harder to kill your darlings in the edit.

This documentary leaves the viewer less informed and filled with much more of a pretentious approach towards mountains which, could’ve been assumed with the opening quotation; “and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Whether the viewer can hear the music or not can only be decided after the tedious hour and fourteen minutes of screen time.

Dir: Jennifer Peedom

Prd: Stephen Boyle, Eric Crosland, Anson Fogel

Scr: Robert Macfarlane & Jennifer Peedom

Starring: Willem Dafoe

DOP: Renan Ozturk

Music: Richard Tognetti

Year: 2017

Country: Australia

Run time: 1 hr 14 minutes