Review: The Eight Mountains
- CANNES 2022: What is friendship? What is nature? Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch craft a sweepingly romantic film of great visual scope which touches on the essential
Eight mountains and eight seas are located within a circle, at the centre of which stands an enormous mountain: it’s the axis of the world, according to Hindu mythology. "Who has seen the most of it? He who has travelled around the eight mountains and sailed the eight seas, or he who remains at its centre?" This is the existential question nestled at the heart of the new work by romantic Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen, who has joined forces with Charlotte Vandermeersch to co-direct The Eight Mountains [+see also:
interview: Felix van Groeningen & Char…
film profile], a wonderful adaptation of Italian author Paolo Cognetti’s best-selling novel of the same name which has been unveiled in competition at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.
"I could stay like this for all eternity – I’m not going anywhere." On the spellbinding Alpine slopes of the Aosta Valley, Pietro and Bruno are enjoying a moment of summertime paradise. They’re two friends who are very different from one another but who are closely tied to the area through various layers of time and a shared history whose seasons of darkness and lightness have come and gone since first they met. In 1984, at the age of ten, Pietro’s parents - an engineer and a teacher from Turin - rented a home for the summer in the tiny village of Grana (14 inhabitants). Here, their shy, city-dwelling only son makes the acquaintance of Grana’s last child, Bruno, whose mother has been taken from him and whose father, who works on building sites abroad, has left him to his uncle and aunt and their herd of dairy cows, which Bruno has to look after on a daily basis. The two boys hit it off immediately, racing through pastures, bathing in the lake and the stream, laughing and playing games… The following summer, Pietro’s hiking enthusiast father (Filippo Timi) takes the two boys onto the glacier for an initiatory journey which leaves a lasting mark… Then, just when Pietro’s parents are getting ready to take Bruno back to live with them in Turin, the latter’s father steps in and takes his son with him.
Nearly 20 years pass before our two friends really come together again… In the meantime, Pietro (Luca Marinelli) has hammered the final nail into the coffin of his relationship with his father, but when he returns to Grana upon his forebear’s death, a whole new chapter in his rekindled friendship with Bruno "the mountaineer" begins (Alessandro Borghi). Secrets are revealed, a house is built, a metamorphosis looms and a new lifecycle unfolds…
Told over a very long period of time (narrated by Pietro), The Eight Mountains has the immense charm of a sweeping romantic saga based around the topic of nature: the nature of men, of (sometimes paradoxical) feelings, of the search for self, of ties, of time and, clearly, of mountainous regions (travelling as far as Nepal) in their purest essence, which is wonderfully captured by the filmmaking duo and their director of photography Ruben Impens. It’s an expansive territory where Felix Van Groeningen’s sensitive and sentimental tendencies (though his lyricism isn’t without coarseness) thrive, but we can’t help thinking he might happily have injected even more of this into the final part of his film, given the richness of material on these two intersecting lives. It’s a touch of imperfection which perfectly demonstrates how a simple story of two friends is a world unto itself.
(Translated from French)
Photogallery 19/05/2022: Cannes 2022 - The Eight Mountains
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