- Spoiler Alert
This Mountain Life is a beautiful documentary about staying positive. For those aspiring to climb high enough, communion with Nature can be found. Though tuning into the cosmos natural vibration is not everyone’s goal, these huge rocky ranges people find latticed around the world offer than meets the eye. At least for those folks who wonder what it’s like to live off the grid, or spend time away from the concrete jungle—whether it’s at a cabin, a monastery or a small community in the woods—this film reveals plenty.
At the same time, we are reminded Supernatural British Columbia is three-quarters mountainous terrain. Life within the Coast Mountains (sic. Cascades) is the focus. To live life with the outdoors as your backyard is not limited. Those willing to explore these alpine ranges can reveal a bounty of medicines and new discoveries, if not reconnecting with a higher force. Small towns tucked within the valleys enjoy the benefits. In the Lower Mainland, some folks can visit Whistler, BC to go skiing. I am brave enough to venture deeper to discover other treasures, if not get spirited away—lest the wildlife have other plans for me.
This film is special because it shows the lives of six different teams. To name a few, this list includes a Martina and Tania Halik, a mother-daughter hiking team (a lot of time is spent on their story); Barry Blanchard, an alpine climber instructor; and Bernhard Thor, an artist living off the grid. His wife, Mary, is just as amazing; together, they are living life as their ancient ancestors once did. To hear their story is very inspiring.
Out of these six stories, two stands out. Simon Beck‘s skills as a snow artist are simply amazing. At first, I am reminded of the Nazca Lines in Peru. He is not attempting communications with aliens. Instead, for those who keep up on where he’s making his next work, they can travel there to admire instead of buying a photo book of past works. For passers-by (most of these are best seen from high up), his precision engineering and navigational skills are admirable. His site-specific work lasts for as long as the weather is on his side. When a new snowfall comes, it fades away. That’s something I love to witness since Beck’s designs are much like Tibetan sand mandalas.
Whether these individuals goals are about expanding their horizons mind, body or soul, the message to not give up is clear. Those who do, according to Tania, are admitting defeat. She also believes getting old is a state of mind. Their goal is to traverse a long trail of connecting mountains across B.C., and only have the gear on their backs and resupply points to keep them going.
Faith can move mountains, and this idiom is neatly visualized in this work by Grant Baldwin. This multi-talented filmmaker served as director, cinematographer, and music composer. The wide-angle visuals will take your breath away. I can only imagine how the shots would look when projected onto an IMAX-sized screen. The resolution of GoPro and drone cameras are high enough so this can be scaled.
In another story, the church recruited Sister Claire Rolf (once a national ski racer) to establish the Queen of Peace Monastery up in the mountains, near Squamish, BC. She was up to the challenge because of the seclusion it offered. This site was chosen because it’s highly regarded as a sacred space. Her passion for the outdoors is more than just to enjoy the wind caress her face. I felt that when I visited Hurricane Ridge, Mt. Saint Helens and Crater Lake. When I visited Banff, Alberta, the quiet fjords I found had a meditative and exuberant effect on me. These Dominican Nun’s mission to also offer that same kind of enlightenment. I believe what they offer is straight out of folk and Buddhist tradition. All faiths are welcomed here.
The mountains are where Heaven and Earth meet. One of the first gods of Japan, Kuninotokotachi, is said to live on top of Mt. Fuji. Ancient Greeks believed the gods live on Mount Olympus. To challenge climbing any the mountain without preparation mentally and physically can spell trouble, especially in Taoism. Roman Catholic theologian, Richard of St. Victor wrote, “The ascent of this mountain belongs to self-knowledge and what happens at the top leads to the knowledge of God.” [Penguin Reference, Dictionary of Symbols, 681].
This documentary nicely bounces between the six different narratives. I wanted to know more about the nuns who made a home near Tantalus Range, but I have to respect their peace. Each story has a wonderful message of hope.
Baldwin’s work does not address the dormant volcanoes which exist along this stretch of the Pacific North West. The mountains along the Rim is laced with many. Instead, he focuses in on the coexistence humanity has with the elements. Barring the fear of what Bigfoot or UFOs represent in paranormal circles, being scared in what they hide is not a consideration. Additionally, I would have liked some mention of Asia and the ranges there; the idea of a monastery built along a mountainside is nothing new to my heritage.
Whether one is visiting to challenge Mt. Assiniboine or to admire the beauty of the provincial park, there’s plenty to enjoy. Escape from the every day is needed, and this film succeeds at letting audiences know Mother Nature has much still to explore, or become part of, should they desire a change. Enlightenment comes in many ways, and to live life at its fullest is what this work ultimately says. There is almost always a visible and distant mountain range to go discover for the willing traveller. The parks welcome you.
4½ Stars out of 5