THE Eight Mountains is a hymn of praise to deep human friendship and enduring relationship to physical place, the kind of relationship to country that Aboriginal people speak of.
Its narrative tells of a man anchored to the Italian Alps into which he was born, and his best friend who wanders the earth searching for his anchor.
The storyline spans four decades, showing a lifelong relationship between two seemingly very different people, who became fast friends as children.
They remain committed to each other as the vicissitudes of life and circumstance drive them apart and bring them back together.
The film starts with the meeting of two 11-year-old boys in a remote alpine village.
Pietro (played by Lupo Barbiero at age 11, Andrea Palma as an adolescent and Luca Marinelli as an adult) is an only child whose family from Turin has rented a mountain summer house, although his workaholic father has stayed in the city.
Bruno (Cristiano Sassella, Francesco Palombelli and Alessandro Borghi) lives with his aunt and uncle, working on their farm.
Bruno’s father is absent, working as a construction labourer in another European country.
In the impoverished village he is the only child left as most families have moved away for better prospects. The two boys come from different worlds but in the absence of fathering are thrown together as playmates.
The Eight Mountains takes its time, not hurrying through its story. It moves slowly and patiently, mirroring the pace of life in the mountains.
This story requires time to set the foundation of the characters’ bond and allow the audience to absorb and connect with them.
The mountains, through impeccable cinematography, reveal their majesty throughout all seasons.
These peaks do not cast a foreboding shadow upon the human characters.
Instead, they embrace them, offering a perspective on the scale of their challenges and dilemmas.
There are other mountains than the Italian Alps.
In his restless search for the centre of his being, Pietro climbs the Nepalese Himalayas and encounters the Tibetan Buddhist cosmology from which the film’s title comes.
But he continually returns to the Alps to his enduring friendship with Bruno.
Bruno is as solid as the mountain on which he was born.
While Pietro yearns for the missing pieces of his emotional being, Bruno is fully self-reliant and at peace in his environment.
But can he survive the economic pressures that are bearing down on the simple village life?
And can the men’s relationship survive their inability to express their emotions formed by their difficult relationships with their fathers?
Most cinematic depictions of male relationship revolve around sex, violence, conflict or failures of relationship with women.
The Eight Mountains is a more insightful film about men; a rare gem.
The Eight Mountains (Le Otto Montagne) is showing as part of the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival which is on at Luna Leederville and Palace Raine Square to October 25.
by BARRY HEALY