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MOVIES: The Eight Mountains - Review

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The Eight Mountains is kind of the film that you see on TikTok referenced as part of an overtly xenophobic bit, usually by an American, as to why filmbros are bad, disregarding the fact that the people historically identified as filmbros wouldn’t have gone anywhere near a film like The Eight Mountains in the first place. They’ll pick the foreign film; say it’s bad because it’s 3 hours long, and give no reason more than that. As though the longer the film, the worse it gets. Here, The Eight Mountains is a shining example of what dares to happen when you ignore the “subtitled screening” warnings that your local cinema will send out with the booking time now, and venture out anyway: a miraculous journey of and affection for characters; a study on solitude and a love affair with the wilderness.

Based on a novel by Paolo Cognetti, labelled as the new Elena Ferrante, there are touches of My Brilliant Friend in The Eight Mountains. Set against the backdrop of the Italian Alps it explores the friendship between two boys, Pietro and Bruno, one from Turin, granted the wish of an education and a so-called better life, the other, tied to the mountain that he wants to escape from, who keep coming back and reuniting each summer, until a gap of a few years takes place and time passes. Eventually, they bump into each other again – but both have changed and Pietro has to recognise with the fact that some mountains may not always be returned to.

It’s a travel advert for the Italian Alps – its breathtakingly natural use of cinematography to highlight the landscape in all its beauty ensures that you’ll be wanting to book tickets to fly there for a getaway the second the film has finished. It’s an examination of how the beauty and wonderment of not just people but places can steer your life for good and for ill; the prominent mountain in this book lives and breathes like a character. It’s got a sense of calmness to it that will grab you to its wavelength and keep you there – justifying that with an attention on male relationships in an entirely platonic way. Old Joy it feels reminiscent of, an unbroken bond – for the second segment, and for the first, it’s kind of like the events of that movie combined with that of Close or a gender-swapped My Brilliant Friend.

You get to see the literary weight of the symbolic title of The Eight Mountains revealed in due course – and it leaves a mark when it does: this movie has a habit of creeping up on you and hitting you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it. Much of that is due to the performances of Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi. Marinelli excellent in Martin Eden, one of the best films of 2020, establishes himself as someone capable delivering depth to his role with precision and so few words spoken. It’s so important that the movie buys these two characters as friends and the film has a difficult challenge to get the actors to make it believable with minimal words - often conveyed through the soundtrack where there are any at all.

But their chemistry is impeccable, deeply heartfelt and unbreakable: Pietro will abandon his new life in Nepal to return to Bruno, but perhaps most importantly of all – the film spends time showing us these characters’ new lives, and the journeys towards them. It makes them feel like they have their own lives outside of their friendship and therefore that friendship only becomes more important when we see them reunited - masculanity plays a key role here, and the film explores the gender roles of both characters rather brilliantly, and rather human - the women comment that they have spent their lives surrounded by quiet men and this film explores the solitude of quiet men perfectly.

Daniel Norgan’s music is breathtakingly good, ethereal, otherworldly and a great indie folk score. It backs the sense of nature, indie feel of it all – beautifully set against a wonderful world of solitude and allows the film to quietly embrace an ode to silent men and their strengths and weaknesses. You get to see both friends at their highs and their lows, their journey of self-discovery: this is ultimately a movie about life, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t go and see it.

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