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Jennifer Peedom’s documentary Mountain takes viewers into the world of adventurists who seek to conquer the world’s highest peaks.

3 out of 4 stars

Directed by
Jennifer Peedom

Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom's Mountain should come with a warning: Do not watch if you suffer from acrophobia. From the opening scene – where a rock climber in sneakers scales Mexico's Sendero Luminoso without ropes – viewers are thrown into the vertigo-inducing world of adventurists who seek to conquer the world's highest peaks.

Narrated sparingly by Willem Dafoe, with words supplied by British author and conservationist Robert Macfarlane, the film explores the psychological mindset of thrill seekers in mountain boots and wing suits, on snowboards and mountain bikes, who apparently, "never feel so alive as when they know at any minute they could die." Peedom (Sherpa) collaborated with Richard Tognetti's Australian Chamber Orchestra to stage a visual and musical spectacle that showcases the majesty of nature and man's helplessness to it. Footage of a successful ascent (the climbers pass a celebratory joint) is juxtaposed with the horror of a climber smashing against a rock face.

The doc drags a bit by the end, but the film's message is sent: "Man's wish to be first induces forms of insanity."

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Mountain opens Jan. 12 in Toronto

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