“The Mountain” Review: Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan shines against a bleak, muted backdrop of 50’s America
BY IRVIN RIVERA
3 out of 5
Director Rick Alverson’s (“The Comedy,” “Entertainment”) film’s debut screening of “The Mountain” in Los Angeles via the Red Bull Music Festival at the Ukrainian Culture Center is an experience that will test your patience and endurance to embrace this acquired taste.
The venue’s freezing temperature (Yes, Los Angeles is cold and rainy that night) lends itself to the mood of the film as it aimlessly explores its dry, cold terrain.
The film is set in 50’s America when lobotomy was used to address mental issues. The tone is bleak, the picture is hauntingly beautiful and pace is a slow, slow burn.
Tye Sheridan plays Andy, a pale, stoic son of an Ice Skating instructor played by Udo Kier. It was implied early on that his mom was institutionalized. Dad rarely talks to him and he usually stares blankly to empty spaces. Occasionally, to break the monotony of the atmosphere, Andy gets visions of an intersex person visiting him.
When his dad died, a mysterious father figure emerged played by Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Wallace Fiennes. He employed Andy as his photographer to shoot his lobotomy patients before they get their skulls spiked to zombieland.
The unlikely pair then embarked on a journey across the rigid, icy, bleak landscapes of small town American hospitals. Andy rarely speaks and acts as the quiet witness to Fiennes sexcapades, people getting lobotomized, the zombie-like “normal” people, and the lethargic state of the environment.
The seemingly endless bleakness was broken when French actor Denis Lavant who plays Jack entered the scene. Jack asked Fiennes to lobotomize his daughter Susan. Andy fell for Susan and had his first sexual encounter with her.
Susan got lobotomized, Jack did a very dramatic number on Andy, and Andy requested Fiennes to perform lobotomy on him so that he can connect with his mother on a deeper level.
The film concluded with zombified Andy and Susan driving away to the icy mountains.
Tye Sheridan played his character perfectly- a bothered teen with lots of pent-up emotions. Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Fiennes is a weirdly likable and annoying womanizer and lobotomist. Denis Lavant woke me up and scared the shit out of me but he delivered and changed the pace for a bit.
The film’s set and cinematography is beautiful. It’s like witnessing a bleached-out version of Photographer Erwin Olaf’s photographs mixed with Gregory Crewdson’s tableaus.
Negative spaces dominate this film. From empty barren hospital walls, to wide-angle shots of the icy landscapes, to the faces devoid of emotions.
Cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman and Production designer Jacqueline Abrahams did an amazing job establishing the bleak, eerie atmosphere of this film.
Composer Dan Lopatin and sound designer Gene Park heightened the atmosphere’s strange feel by layering high frequency shriek-like sounds throughout the film.
Every frame is like a beautiful photograph that puts a spell on you, making you wanna stare at it for hours, so that you can create your own stories in your mind. Perhaps that’s the beauty of this film.
It is stylized, very visual, and plays with your head. It is clearly not for everybody. It will definitely make a lot of people crave for more and it may puzzle a few as it is quite a journey and a steep mountain to climb and process a solid story.