Synopsis: An experience about the highest peaks around the world.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Jennifer Peedom
Actors: Willem Dafoe
Production: Greenwich Entertainment
  3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
74 min

Okay, here we go then.

Yeah. No, I will be good with this.

- Okay. I'm ready.

- Right. Thank you.

To those who are enthralled by mountains.

They're wonders beyond all disputes.

To those who are not.

They are always a kind of madness.

What is this strange force that draws us upwards?

This siren song...

Of the summit.

Only three centuries ago

Setting up to climb

a mountain would

have been considered

an act of lunacy.

The idea scarcely

existed that wild

landscapes might hold

any sort of attraction.

Mountains were places of peril, not beauty.

An upper world to be shunned, not sought out.

How then have mountains now come to hold a spellbound.

Drawing us into their dominion.

Often at the cost of our lives.

Because the mountains we climb are not made only of rock and ice

But also dreams...

And desire.

The mountains we climb

Are mountains of the mind.

To humans high

mountains were once

considered the home

of either the holy

Or the hostile.

There was nothing in between.

Around to be revered from below but never entered.

Go around mountains

if necessary,

along their flanks

but not up them.

For only gods and monsters dwelt at heights.

The upper world was

a sacred landscape

to which we directed

our devotion

And our rituals of awe.

But always from the safe distance.

Daily life brought ample hardship and danger.

There was no need to seek out more.

Gradually though the dragons and

divinities were put to flight and

our feelings toward mountains

underwent an astonishing change.

Fascination replaced trepidation.

Adventure replaced reverence.

As cities grew and we insulated ourselves away from nature

The mountains called us back.

The magic of mountains strengthened

Their fierce beauty,

Their power to enchant,

Their challenge

We went in search

of places that were

intimidating and uncontrollable.

That inspired in us the heady blend of pleasure and terror.

Which we came to call the sublime.

This search for the sublime do us outwards and upwards.

The great peeks of

the world begin to

exert a force upon

the imagination.

A siren song that was easy to hear.

Hard to resist.

And sometimes... fatal.

But legends of death

in high places spread

the spell of the

mountains wider still.

Slowly the blank spaces on the maps were filled in.

The imperial aim was to grid, girdle and name the upper world.

To bring it and

it's peoples within

the realm of the

known and the owned.

To replace mystery - with mastery.

And the greatest mystery of them all...


And so began the campaign to vanquish it.

Everest was placed under siege.

Until at last it succumbed.

This was the moment

that mountaineering as

adventure entered the

popular imagination.

Our fascination became an obsession.

Now our need for mountains runs deep and wide.

For most of us exist for

most of the time in

environments that are humanly

arranged and controlled.

But mountains are wild and ungovernable.

This is the source of their danger

And also the source of their allure.

And so a longing for the unknown that cans us onwards

Like echos cave

The unknown will answer back with whatever you call into it.

To travel to the high peaks is to cross a threshold

Into a space where time warps...

And bends.

And sensations are thrillingly amplified.

Stone and ice though

are far less gentle to

the hand's touch than

to the mind's eye.

The mountains of the

Earth have often

turned out to be more resistant,

More fatally real

Than the mountains we imagine.

These are matters of hard sharp rock and driving ice.

A bone deep cold.

Nothing ideal.

Injury and nausea.

Fizzing fear.

Of stomach turning vertigo.

But... They're also places of unspeakable beauty.

And so the peaks summon us still.

Sharpening our sense of being.

Setting life on a knife edge.

For danger can hold terrible joys.

Dreadful splendors.

Today mountains are

considered among

nature's most

exquisite features.

No longer due to

their chaotic forms

upsetting the spirit

level of our minds.

Now we migrate to them

in our millions each

year pursuing our

strange pilgrimages.

A very modern mountain worship has taken hold.

A worship that requires the modification of the mountains.

And the management of their risks.

And in doing so

We have come to forget something of their power.

What odd devotions we undertake.

What curious performances we put on.

With the mountains as our theater.

To certain people the call to adventure is irresistible.

As everyday life has become safer and more comfortable for some.

We've begun to seek out danger elsewhere.

We court danger.

We pay for it.

Risk has become its own reward.

At height you can be taken right to the brink.

For you never feel

so alive knowing

that at any minute...

You could die.

So up to the mountains we go in headlong pursuit of peril.

Or a testing ground on which the self can best be illuminated.

Today's adventurers are

driven by the lust to

reach somewhere no-one

has reached before.

And to do something no-one has done before.

Our wish to be first induces in us forms of insanity.

And forms of grace.

Adventurers sometimes liken fear to a rat.

When you take risks you feed the rat with fear.

But each time you feed 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 has it come to this?

The mountains as a stage

set for a pumped-up

poker game of high

stakes and high returns.

All driven by big brands and online views.

Many who traveled among the tops are half in love with themselves

And half in love with oblivion.

Today's mountain mania culminates on Everest.

Where the wish to test one's limits

Or to battle one's

demons draws thousands

of people to the peak each year.

Attempting Everest

offers a way for the

ordinary person to be

briefly extraordinary.

But the nature of the challenge has in many ways changed.

This isn't climbing anymore.

It's queuing.

This isn't exploration.

It's crowd control.

This is the modern industry of ascent.

In which the risks are often taken most by those who have least.

But mountains exceed our command.

They slip our grip.

And there is no glory for those who are left behind.

Mountains are so much

more than a challenge...

Or an adversary to be overcome.

For mountains humble the human instinct.

And reveal our insignificance.

They live in deep time. In a way that we do not.

Behind and beyond the

mountains stretch

eons too fast for

us to comprehend.

They were here long before we were even dreamed of.

They watched us arrive.

They will watch us leave.

Born of fire.

Born of force.

Mountains move.

Over epochs they rise and fall.

This is the symphony of the Earth.

A rhythm of uplift and

erosion that makes

not waves of water...

But waves of stone.

And from these waves of stone flows life.

Being in the mountains can

ignite our astonishment

at the simplest transactions

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Robert Macfarlane

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Mountain" STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 22 Jul 2024. <>.

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