Awe-inspiring visuals and equally stirring orchestrations combine to fittingly majestic effect in “Mountain,” a unique portrait of mankind’s enduring fascination with the world’s most formidable summits.
A rewarding collaboration between filmmaker Jennifer Peedom, who previously got acquainted with the rocky terrain on her acclaimed 2015 documentary “Sherpa,” and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, which contributed a classical score, the film traverses the world to track the mountaineers and thrill-seekers drawn to their fierce beauty.
While incorporating poetic observations penned by author Robert Macfarlane, Willem Dafoe’s nicely measured, calmly assuring narration respectfully hangs back whenever those windswept vistas are able to speak more eloquently for themselves.
The towering topography may be immobile, save for the occasional avalanche, but cinematographer Renan Ozturk’s soaring camera more than compensates — swirling, swooping across the various landscapes, creating a sensation that is alternately breathtaking and heart-pounding.
Tellingly, the film observes that over the course of the century since Edmund Hillary conquered Mt. Everest, what was once deemed folly has become a bona fide industry, no longer about exploration, but crowd control as throngs of extreme sports enthusiasts queue up with snowboards, trail bikes and wingsuits in tow.
Indeed, in light of news that, this week alone, a pair of climbers from Japan and Macedonia died attempting to reach the summit of Everest, “Mountain” serves as a potent reminder of the narrowest of chasms that exist between triumph and tragedy.
Rating: PG, for perilous sports action, some injury images and brief smoking
Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes
Playing: Landmark Nuart, West Los Angeles