The Eight Mountains not the hike you may be expecting. Starring Luca Marinelli and Allesando Borghi, this is a tender and quiet stroll that glimmers and lingers in the mind like sunshine sifting through a cloud. Based on the celebrated novel by Paolo Cognetti, the movie is suffused with a kind of warmth that used to be a staple of Italian cinema. It deals with the power of friendship, but in a deeper sense it offers questions about what it means for those friends to walk, sprint and climb through this landscape we call life.
If that sounds a little on the nose, it’s meant to be, since the heart of this sub-titled movie lies in the relationship between the Italian Alps and the characters on screen. The film is very much rooted in the region, which has been called “the center of the universe,” as well as the hardest place to reach in Italy. It’s a paradise for hikers, with its lush valleys, turquoise streams and open-air revines, and it’s the perfect place for two kids to make lasting memories.
The film begins with a young Pietro (Lupo Barbiero) on vacation with his family. In a remote town, he meets a boy (Cristiano Sassella) who identifies himself as the last remaining child in the village. The two become fast friends–bonding over walks with Pietro’s father–until Bruno’s (Sassello) parents take him away for work. The pair don’t see each other for 15 years and never visit the town. Only after Pietro’s father dies does he come back to the village, where he discovers his inheritance is a cabin without a roof, which Bruno (Borghi) has promised to fix. The project allows them to rebuild their relationship as they wander the countryside to Daniel Norgan’s score.
These folk songs come out of nowhere and speak volumes to what our characters are feeling even when they cannot. When Bruno attempts to become a cheesemaker, he gets stuck in a rut, which is reflected in what we hear in the lyrics. Pietro (Marinelli) becomes a writer and goes to Nepal, but every summer returns to spend time with Bruno, who grows increasingly lonesome as he stays in the cabin. The filmmakers Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch give their bond a rich, emotional quality, as reflected in the film’s reception at Cannes (where it won the Jury Prize) and the images that mirror our protagonist’s state of mind.
The aesthetic approach is warm and luminous. Cinematographer Ruben Impens shoots the film in gorgeous static shots, each image as perfectly framed as a Sangentini painting, golden rays of sun caressing fields of waving grass. Across the horizon, love and discovery blossom. One can imagine another director turning this into a downer, but the only time The Eight Mountains diverges from these exquisite compositions is when it’s grounded (literally) in the dramas that play out below. The result is a film that is light, lyrical and altogether wonderful, a wholly singular experience that takes bromance movies to new heights.
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