Dir/scr: Ben Russell. US. 2021. 83minutes
Environment cinema’s shaman-in-home Ben Russell concocts nonetheless one more idiosyncratic incantation in The Invisible Mountain. A highway-movie-on-foot, it follows the actual physical and non secular journey of a thirtysomething Finnish fellow whose meanderings are interspersed with musical performances by Helsinki all-woman trio Olimpia Splendid. Craving for and occasionally reaching zones of trippy transcendence, this is a likeably artisanal, hand-crafted, 16mm-shot affair—even the subtitles are manually scribbled—which will tickle lengthy-time Russell aficionados and enable widen the prolific, globetrotting Los Angeles resident’s cultish fanbase.
What issues below, of training course, is the journey itself instead than any particular vacation spot or resolution
Revered in cinephile circles for unfastened-limbed psycho-geographic operates like Allow Every single A single Go Where He May possibly (2009) and Great Luck (2017) plus his collaborations with English kindred-spirit Ben Rivers—who contributes black-and-white camerawork here—including 2013’s well-acquired A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, Russell has always been a highly songs-oriented artist. The Invisible Mountain, which could plausibly be programmed at gig-oriented as properly as far more standard venues, starts in arresting type at an Olimpia Splendid concert.
Russell captures the performers (all of them artwork-faculty graduates) in beatific close-up, bathed in purple-blue gentle. The trio socks over one particular of their doomily hypnotic, rhythmical quantities which blend detuned guitars, drum-equipment loops and ethereal vocals. The aftermath of the concert then casually introduces us to their roadie Tuomo Tuovinen, a trim, balding, bespectacled, bearded fellow who bears a passing resemblance to mid-1960s Donald Pleasance. The title-card drops at the 15-minute mark, just after which Toivanen unassumingly emerges as the primary “protagonist” of this brisk, episodically freewheeling 83-moment photograph.
Motivated by the writings of René Daumal, whose experimental, unfinished, posthumously-revealed 1952 novel Mount Analogue (subtitled A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing) is the film’s touchstone text as Toivanen scours various picturesque and remote corners of Europe from Finland to Greece in look for of…. enlightenment? Himself? The fact is out there, someplace: “The gateway to the obvious have to be seen,” Daumal counsels.
What issues in this article, of study course, is the journey alone somewhat than any particular destination or resolution. Expressing the film’s preoccupations verbally (“I really do not know what this emotion is, or if I have inner thoughts at this point…” muses Toivanen, “I want to see what is behind the horizon”) doesn’t actually assist clarify matters a fantastic offer. Our laconic hero is usually a minimal little bit of a blank, his philosophical self-examinations regularly overshadowed by much less tangible sensory stimulations. What makes the movie genuinely sing are Olimpia Splendid’s atmospheric stylings, the elegant romantic glories of unpopulated landscapes, and the way Russell (doing the job as his very own editor) combines the two.
This reducing from time to time achieves real grace-notes of concentrated euphoria, these kinds of as Tuovinen’s bounce into an icy lake. A virtuoso percussive montage thrillingly recaps the “action” so far in a 120-next burst of quick-fireplace imagery accompanied by and propelled onwards by ecstatic drumming. By this issue the movie has abandoned any pretense of fly-on-the-wall detachment, Russell moving into his own frame to accompany and converse with his subject someplace in the windblown wilds of Finland.
Shot just before and edited all through the pandemic, Russell’s adventurous but accessible movie completes a cross-disciplinary triptych which commenced with La Montaña invisible in 2019 (a Mexico Metropolis installation co-developed with Nicolas Becker) and continued with La montagne invisible last year (an exhibition held at Le Plateau in Paris). This culminatory manifestation will strike chords with numerous for whom the epochal activities of spring 2020 and following have triggered a reassessment of priorities.
Output corporation: VSBL MTN
Intercontinental profits: Ben Russell ([email protected])
Producers: Ben Russell, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos
Editing: Ben Russell
Cinematography: Ben Rivers, Ben Russell