La Montagne (2022)

February 8th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Thomas Salvador | Cast: Thomas Salvador, Louise Bourgoin, Martine Chevallier, Laurent Poitrenaux | France, 113′

Not since Julian Polsler’s visionary Austrian drama Der Wand (2012) has there been such an imaginative eco-thriller, set this time in the French Alps. La Montagne successfully blends mountaineering and sci-fi into a lowkey love story that explores the mysterious kinetic qualities of the Alps.

Expect to see some really spectacular special effects along with superior widescreen panoramas of the mountains in the early Spring thaw. But also a sense of danger that slowly builds when the introspective main character Pierre – played by the director himself – is seen walking across a glacier in crampons and later enduring ferocious winds in his small bivouac pitched on the ascent to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi near Chamonix Mont Blanc.

Salvador, who won the SACD award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for this enigmatic sophomore feature, adopts a docudrama style with some impressive Alpine set pieces, and adds authenticity to this intimate story with some serious technical detail during Pierre’s meeting with his climbing pal Marc (Poitrenaux) that sees them take on a complex bit of rock climbing and offers impressive views of the peaks as well as emotionally charged moments when Pierre slips on the ice. 

In a mountainside restaurant Pierre then strikes up a conversation with Lea (Bourgoin) on the pretence of asking her to pop a card in the post. This leads to a meeting with his family at the base of Chamonix where he argues with his brother who is not happy about Pierre’s laissez-faire attitude to keeping in contact with the rest of them.

Pierre crosses paths with Lea again and a romantic frisson develops when she offers a handy tip on how to tie non-slip laces on his boots. Smoke from a distant landslide then grabs Pierre’s attention as the tone changes gear with a more sinister undertow as Pierre goes to investigate and discovers a mysterious light glowing out of the rock-face, the luminosity intensifying as night gradually falls on the hostile terrain.

On closer examination Pierre discovers what appears to be a sparkling globular mass that travels around the rock-face like the glowing embers of volcano magma. But before Pierre can investigate further his attempts are thwarted by an unexpected turn of events in this intriguing mountain adventure that splices the surreal with a serendipitous story of modern love. MT


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