The Mountain: Berlin Review
Norwegian director Ole Giaever's intimate two-actor drama starring Marte Magnusdotter Solem and Ellen Dorrit Petersen is played out against the immense backdrop of nature and hits all the right notes, yet fails to ignite.
The emotional tension eroding a lesbian couple after the death of their child remains snowbound in The Mountain, an intimate two-actor drama played out against the immense backdrop of nature that hits all the right notes, yet fails to ignite. In his first feature, Norwegian Ole Giaever directs with sober restraint bordering on minimalism, a safe, elegant style that should find festival appreciation, especially at LGBT events, but looks like a very hard sell elsewhere.
Far from the adventurous film the title conjures up, Giaever's sensitive script resolutely eliminates any drama that could not just as well have taken place in a small living room or on a theater stage. Two young women backpackers trek up the gentle slopes of a remote mountain, at cross purposes from the start. The elder Nora (Marte Magnusdotter Solem) is taciturn, snappy, almost sullen; blonde Solveig (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) is cheery and determined. As they progress up the snow-dusted slopes, the tension between them mounts.
It was Solveig's idea to return to the spot where their 5-year-old son lost his life two years prior on a mountain hike, in an attempt to shake Nora, the boy's biological mother, out of her depression. Threatened with the break-up of their relationship, Nora has agreed reluctantly to the painful psychological experiment. But for Solveig, who is pregnant, it's a make it or break it trip.
The women's love for one another underwrites the film's simple concept. Both actresses have an ordinary, down-to-earth quality that works well with Giaever's spare, realistic dialogue. Playing the grief-stricken natural mother, Magnusdotter Solem is a mask of restrained suffering; the forward-gazing Dorrit Petersen lightens up the atmosphere a bit.
In keeping with the film's quietness, Ola Flottum's piano score adds discreet touches of feeling. The only surprise is the restless, constantly moving camera that seems to externalize the women's inner soul-searching and keeps the film on this side of Dogma rules.
In the place of art direction, there is the mountain and a tent. Apart from a few key shots, the natural beauty of the location is not emphasized; on the contrary, the backdrop tends to be monotonously white and snowy. Though the film is a short 73 minutes, the story still feels stretched to make feature length.
Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 12, 2010
Production company: Ferdinand Films, Fourandahalf
Cast: Marte Magnusdotter Solem, Ellen Dorrit Petersen
Director: Ole Giaever
Screenwriter: Ole Giaever
Producer: Ole Giaever
Coproducer: Karin Julsrud
Director of photography: Oystein Mamen
Music: Ola Flottum
Costumes: Itonje Soimer Guttormsen
Editors: Wibecke Ronseth, Astrid Skumsrud Johanse
Sales Agent: Bavaria Film Int'l