The Mountain (2018) *** Venice Film Festival 2018

August 31st, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Rick Alverson | Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jeff Goldblum, Hannah Gross, Denis Lavant, Udo Kier | US Drama | 

Rick Alverson enforces his reputation as an arcane arthouse auteur in this drifting and broodingly melancholy film that follows the career of a suave peripatetic professor of lobotomies, seen through the eyes of a repressed young man in 1950s America.

Nothing is really different from today in this Edward Hopper-like world of alienation and conservatism where self expression, particularly from women, is curbed and stifled by a sharp poke in the eyes from Jeff Goldblum’s dapper despotic Dr Fiennes.

There is something unsettlingly surreal about The Mountain and the way it plays out with a glowering intent that solemnly visits the pristine emptiness of its spartan interiors and mournful rural backwaters.  It could be called visionary but it also feels overbearing in its arty pretentiousness. 

Alverson has selected a perfect cast for the doom-laden affair. Tye Sheridan, is a troubled young man whose mother has disappeared into an institution and whose figure-skating father (a mesmerising Udo Kier) dies during the early scenes in their airless home. Trained up as a medical photographer by the rangy doctor with his eye for the ladies and a whiff of eminence grise ruffling through his silver locks, the pair then cut a swathe through select California psychiatric institutions, helping ‘deranged’ patients to be more compliant by detaching their prefrontal cortex.

But as new psychotropic drugs become the treatment of preference, psychiatrists begin refusing Fiennes’ services and he slowly unravels taking Wally and his female friend with him. There is q classic cameo from Denis Lavant thrown in for good measure to complete the wacky weirdness of it all. An acquired taste and a hypnotic film to watch that could be a road best not travelled for others. MT 



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