Directors Felix Van Groenigen and Charlotte Vandermeersch have achieved cinematic hypnotism with their latest odyssey, The Eight Mountains. The film’s story is grounded in reality, however, the way it is shot gives it an otherworldly feeling. This directing duo understands the power of the long shot. They utilize the Tarkovsky-esque strategy of placing emotionally vulnerable characters amongst massive landscapes. The audience is able to place themselves in the shoes of these characters without forcing a specific emotion. Your own personal experiences will inform the way you take this film in. The tears were flowing; the overwhelming longshots led my brain down a rabbithole of friendships, death, and my disconnect to nature. Every frame and sound design detail works to create a world that for two hours and twenty minutes the audience inhabits. When the main characters reach the top of a mountain, the film soars. It will be difficult to find a more beautifully shot drama this year.
The film follows Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi), two best friends from childhood. They spent time away from each other during their teen years, but the memories they made together as children bring them back together. Although the characters rarely show intense affection, it is still clear they are the most important people to each other. The film does not follow a typical three act structure, and it is true that the plot is loose. However, the film makes its mark between the lines. It creates lyrical moments akin to Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life. While the film lack’s emotional potency when it comes to moments of dialogue, it makes up for it with searing shots of our characters battling nature and the inherent demons of life itself.
The film is cinematic, and at times feels like a novel, unfolding in chapters rather than the typical three act structure. It is a series of events in two friends’ lives. You get to know these characters in big and small moments, giving us the full picture of who they really are. Marinelli and Borghi give extremely textured performances. They rarely go over the top. Rather, it’s the details in their performance that slowly burn into you. From every scratch of their thick beards, to each melancholic smile. The film deserves to be seen on the big screen. Not only are the shots awe inspiring, it is the subtle ambient music and abrupt cuts to silence that give the film its emotional punch. Without a proper sound system, it might get lost in translation.
In The Eight Mountains, there were plenty of moments where I was genuinely stumped as to how they were achieved and conceived of. With a minimal budget, this is somehow one of the best looking movies of the past 5 years. This directing duo understands the power of the 4:3 aspect ratio. They do not use it as an artsy gimmick. I’ve not seen a film use this much sky since American Honey. It is these extremely tall shots that give the film cosmic implications. Towards the halfway point, the film meanders a bit. It tails off in numerous directions that don’t have strong payoffs. This did not bother me too much. As someone who is visually inclined, I was constantly enchanted by the camerawork. In the end, everything comes together for a subtle and powerful moment that left audience members in tears.
Don’t go into The Eight Mountains expecting a tight Richard Curtis script. Instead, let this film’s images wash over you. The film is certainly arthouse, but the relatability of the friendship makes it recommendable to broader audiences, if they have enough patience. Though our lives may be nothing like these characters–they inhabit a pocket of the world very few are familiar with–the film always finds its way back to universal themes. This is why it feels like such a grand achievement.
– Jack Schenker (@YUNGOCUPOTIS)
2022 Cannes Film Festival; Felix Van Groenigen and Charlotte Vandermeersch; The Eight Mountains film review