7 Peaks

7 Peaks


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

There are at least 31 mountains in 7 Peaks, that surfeit of summits confused further by the use of archive footage and a handful of quotations. It starts not with a pile of rocks but with a door - albeit one nestled high in an anonymous brick structure.

From it, a rope - from the rope, a mountaineer, abseiling down what is revealed as a church. With all attendant religious symbolism, this descent is paired with a series of ascents. There is Petrarch, ascending Mount Ventoux, his desire for the easy path leaving him far below his altitude-hungry brother. Michaelangelo, singing the praises of the sculpture-trapping hills of Carrara. John Dennis, pondering the sublime and giving form to Romanticism, Johann Jacob Scheuzer outlining the presence of dragons in the Swiss Alps.

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Underneath each of these stories, mountains - mountains high, mountains black and white, mountains in colour and texture - mountains in sound, the crunch of gravel, mountains of air - high piled clouds and valleys below. Lava crawls by, the folds of a monstrous creature, red-tinted footage, blue-tinted archive, rudimentary sedan chairs are hauled across a seemingly Martian landscape.

Edwin Baker's sound design and Matt Hulse's voiceover combine to unify these disparate landscapes. We start with the implied question 'what's up there?' and then there are no answers. Anna Abrahams manages to generate confusion from her footage, the tint and twist laid upon it are completed by a world inverted - in front of us what seems a steeple in the middle of a river, below us only sky.

Apparently this is the last piece of a trilogy about the cultural meaning of landscape. While it's got culture (or at least poetry and sculpture), it's not long on meaning. Some locations feel wasted - the dizzying depths of the quarries of Carrara, that abstracted palette of marble, the toy-like qualities of the great machines at those great distances, dulled by black and white. Perhaps there's something in shape over colour, the monotone of extractor fans as monumental sculptors chip away at great blocks. There's a flash or two of strobe-like behaviour, an empty cowl made negative, positive, negative, positive, but all in muted black and white. One is reminded of the photographs by Edward Burtynsky of Vermont's quarries, many of which were worked by Italian masons. In those the depth, both architectural and of colour, is palpable, but here it is much more muted. Buried in the focus on climbing, these "inverted skyscrapers" offered a chance for contrast that has not been taken.

We're left with, then, something that is itinerant in its intentions, various in its approaches, erratic in its colouration and focus and scope. If you want to see some mountains, see some mountains - but if you want to see a film about mountains 7 Peaks is worth a look if one is so inclined.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2012
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Looking down from the mountains of Europe, can one gain an insight into its culture?

Director: Anna Abrahams

Year: 2012

Runtime: 23 minutes

Country: Netherlands


EIFF 2012

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