The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE EIGHT MOUNTAINS | The Movie Waffler


Two men are reunited in the mountainous region where they once became childhood friends.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Felix van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch

Starring: Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Filippo Timi, Elena Lietti, Elisabetta Mazzullo, Surakshya Panta

The Eight Mountains poster

As a suburban middle-class male of a particular vintage, it is my abiding dream to one day have as my occasional home a wooden cabin positioned in faraway mountains which overlook vast bluffs of purple rock and white snow, same as it is for others of my basic ilk. You know, just being away from everyone else so we can get on with the business of being aspirational. By virtue of financial situations and the binding ties of real life, however, as a consolation most of us will have to make do with director/screenwriter duo Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch's tasteful literary adaptation The Eight Mountains instead, coming soon to the art centres we frequent every few months in search of tasteful, self-affirmingly worthy cinema.

The Eight Mountains review

Paolo Cognetti's source material is a bildungsroman (of course it is), and thus we open with young Pietro holidaying in the alps with his family. In the pleasingly rustic village, there only appears to be one other kid knocking about, Bruno, whom Pietro befriends and collaborates with in the sort of picaresque which people always retrospectively wish they'd had in their own childhoods: woodlands, exploring, building dams, etc. Pietro's dad takes the boys on a more unique adventure, however, in the form of a hike up one of the sizable mountain peaks that dwarf the village: responsible. For the boys, the alpine incident instigates a lifelong attachment to the mountain, a fixation potentially catalysed by city kid Pietro stumbling when he attempts to leap the same ravine which Bruno has just traversed with ease (the resonant monumentality of the moment is better explicated in the novel, wherein Pietro more dramatically hyperventilates). Are these domineering alpine edifices to become metaphor, an opportunity to confirm masculine worth, or are they simply a panoramic visual pleasure backdropping the bourgeois fairy tale about to ensue?

The Eight Mountains review

Thing is, Pietro is URBANE and Bruno is POOR but the innocence of childhood does not recognise such distinctions. It is the punitive adult world and its pesky obligations which mean Bruno is made to stay in the village and become a builder while Pietro goes off to be a filmmaker. I liked this part because it meant that I could stroke my chin over the plight of people less sophisticated and cosmopolitan than me - I mean, Bruno's parents are so cartoonishly jejune that for some reason they refute the attempts of Bruno's parents to teach their son literacy, the unedified peasants. As the film went on though, I was equally thrilled to patronisingly fetishise Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) as the sort of rugged, capable outdoorsy type who I can only ever aspire towards, a positioning which Pietro's (Luca Marinelli) enduring narrative voiceover takes for granted.

Best of all was how the narrative was straightforwardly situated within the sort of ubiquitously represented male anxieties I was able to understand and self-importantly relate to. Early on, father complexes are introduced when it is suggested that Pietro's dad is only really actualised when he out having a walk (which is all a hike really is, let's be honest) up the mountains. What is it with straight men and their absolute obsession with getting away from their families? Via the portentous narration, in The Eight Mountains there is a given assumption that such quixotic pursuits are noble; alright, Casper David Friedrich. The theme is developed when dad dies but leaves his son a ruined shack within the snowy folds of the slopes, which Pietro accordingly resolves to repair – the v/o lamenting "What else was I supposed to do with his lost dream?" As their paths diverge, the boys return annually as men to the location, which over time becomes the candle glowed cabin of our cosy dreams.

The Eight Mountains review

Yes, Ruben Impens' photography is gorgeous, but you can't really go wrong capturing such impressive scenery. And at two hours plus of such snowy sumptuousness with very little substance beneath, altitude sickness might well set in. The Eight Mountains is a cosy watch, an unchallenging drama which plays into the travelogue ambitions of its audience and offers homespun reassurance of certain values. Of course life moves on, and friendships change, and mountains are pretty: presenting such obvious truths are not especially insightful. Over its extended running time, The Eight Mountains' photogenic philosophising is executed in a manner very similar to hiking a mountain: slowly, very slowly. Nonetheless, Bruno and Pietro's companionship is the pinnacle of the film, a symbiosis authentically characterised by the fraternity and competition which typifies male friendship. The requisite ups and downs (again, a bit like hiking, etc) lead towards a tragic ending which serves to provide one of the two main characters with an important life lesson. Can you guess which one?

The Eight Mountains is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 film reviews