Dir. Christian Einshøj
Programme: International Spectrum (International Premiere)
The Mountains is a tender meditation on the enduring effects of old school masculinity. It’s also an astute observation of a family in crisis. Director Christian Einshøj conjures a richly complex experience for the viewer, one that cleverly interlaces a gentle humour into a sometimes-heartbreaking portrait. This is one of those special films that can merge laughter with sorrow, often in the same instant.
The Mountains’ director Einshøj strives to confront past pain head on in this intimate doc. He explores the shared hurt that still lingers since the death of his baby brother 25 years before. At the time of Kristoffer’s diagnosis, their father, Søren, bought a video camera in an attempt to forever capture their short time with him. The filming process served as a way to get closer to the child. It also became the means of interaction with each other, one that Einshøj inherited when he began to pick up a camera and film his encounters with the rest of the family.
Having recently begun to pore over the archives, which over the years had turned into hundreds of hours of home video and more than 75.000 photos, the filmmaker recognizes that the family has been stuck in time. At a certain point, they simply stopped communicating, seemingly adrift in their individual lives. He discovers that a false family narrative had arisen, one in which everything seemed the same as it had been before the tragedy.
Things come to a head when Søren suddenly decides to sell the family home. No one, not Einshøj’s mother nor his two surviving brothers, speaks about this life altering event even as it is taking place. This is when the director understands he must do something to repair the damage, which is only just becoming apparent to him.
Einshøj’s arresting self-awareness is matched by the inspired reflexive style of the film. By intermingling the archival materials with the interviews he has conducted with family members over the past 15 years, he makes their shared pain more apparent. With his frank voice-over musings, he also unravels patterns that have developed over time, like his father’s constant need to be in motion, to run, both figuratively and literally. He realizes that this sin of the father has been passed down to him.
The film’s most revealing moments come when Einshøj begins to examine his relationships with his brothers. This is when he gets to the heart of the matter: their broken lines of communication, the ways in which older concepts of masculinity warped their abilities to develop self-awareness and maintain previous closely held bonds. There was a pressure to conform to what are now outdated notions, namely the “boys don’t cry” idea. The filmmaker refreshingly decides to confront this, to address it out loud, to enact the process of healing in a most creative way.
Beyond this cogent insight into masculinity, The Mountains is also a doc in which the viewer experiences the powerful transition from trauma to healing. There’s a piercing nature to Einshøj’s candour, to the shared honesty, and to the healing process that unfolds in the film. What makes it unforgettable, and what is particularly affecting, is how the film shows that when one stops running away and turns toward the hurt, what follows is actually quite liberating.