A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mountain is an awe-inspiring documentary that should be viewed on the biggest screen possible. Reminiscent of IMAX movies made for science museums, its sweeping, gorgeous, close-up imagery -- combined with slow, calm, relaxing narration (delivered by Willem Dafoe) and symphonic music -- creates an experience that viewers feel. The film encourages viewers to respect mountains: their magnificence, their deadly potential, and their place in Earth's ecosystem. Humanity's relatively modern need to use mountains as an adrenaline platform is explored. While the movie's message about the fact that people's need to conquer mountains can damage nature is delivered with gentle judgment, the extreme stunts shown in the film are equal parts cautionary and victory tales -- and could both concern and inspire young viewers. Other than the scenes of perilous activity, there's no content of concern: no swearing, no sex, no drinking, no drugs.
What's the story?
MOUNTAIN examines humanity's relationship with mountains. It begins by sharing the historical fact that, until relatively recently, people saw mountains only as obstacles. Now, many look at mountains as a challenge; the more potential danger, the stronger the lure to dominate. Mountain displays panoramic views of peaks across the globe juxtaposed with moments of extreme sports enthusiasts risking life and limb to master the massifs -- all the while asking, at what cost?
Is it any good?
Nature has never been more beautiful, maybe not even in real life. Expansive camera work expertly glides viewers in and out of mountain ranges across the world. On a small screen, you'll get it; on a big screen, you'll live it. Accompanying the scenic views is an auditory experience that's just as luxe. The film opens with the Australian Chamber Orchestra tuning up and actor Willem Dafoe stepping up to the mic to narrate. Unspooling as if it's a dream, with Dafoe almost whispering in your ear, the film aims to ease you into a change of perspective.
The ensuing explosion of mountaineers, skiers, rock climbers, squirrel suit flyers, BASE jumpers, snowboarders, and stunt bike riders taking to the mountains shows how interacting with mountains has become an accepted pastime. Using eloquent, near-poetic language and soothing cadence, Mountain nudges viewers to think beyond the feats and ask why mountains are being used for sport -- and what the long-term impact may be. In creating an awakening, Mountain director Jennifer Peedom succeeds. But the film's presentation is so peaceful and sonorous, it may lull more viewers to sleep than to action.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mountain's lush cinematography. How do the visuals help tell the story? How does the symphonic score contribute to the film?
How does Mountain compare to other documentaries you've seen? What does it have in common with those films? How is it different?
The movie begins with words printed on the screen that say, "Those who dance are considered mad by those who cannot hear the music." Why do you think that quote was chosen?
Are people who risk their lives to achieve a feat, such as BASE jumping or rock climbing, courageous? Or foolish?
The narrator says, "Adventurers sometimes liken fear to a rat. When you take risks, you feed the rat with fear. But each time you feed it that fear, it grows fatter. So then you must feed it more fear to sate it. And yet more again. And then still more. Until a madness bites." How do you think that saying applies to the sports enthusiasts in Mountain? Do you think it applies to any other pursuits?
- In theaters: May 11, 2018
- Cast: Willem Dafoe
- Director: Jennifer Peedom
- Studio: Greenwich Entertainment
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Science and Nature
- Run time: 73 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: perilous sports action, some injury images and brief smoking
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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