On a whim, Pierre, a robotics engineer played by Thomas Salvador (also a cowriter and director), abandons his comfortable life in Paris. Before traveling to the French Alps for work, he sits sullenly in his modern apartment, deep in thought, sipping an espresso alone. Immediately, we see that Pierre is contemplative, often lost in thought, but rarely do we really understand why. This is painfully apparent for the first time during his work presentation, where suddenly, his gaze drifts to France’s Mont Blanc outside the conference room window. Transfixed by the mountainside, Pierre impulsively disavows urban life and devotes himself to climbing the snow-capped peak.
Salvador’s The Mountain is enigmatic, tracing Pierre’s fascination with Mont Blanc. However, his cryptic expedition is devoid of lasting impact. Or, really, Salvador trusts the audience too much, almost requesting that we imbue Pierre’s cathartic journey with deeper meaning. Sure, Pierre’s devotion to the natural is discernible, but Salvador’s frustrating portrayal of this dejected cosmopolite leaves little to explore. His stoicism is static, except occasionally during minimal interactions with the head chef at a local restaurant, played by Louise Bourgoin. But even then, the emotional connection is left at the surface to erode without leaving a lasting mark.
Despite Pierre’s inaccessibility, The Mountain is composed of beautiful shots of the French Alps—the only sections of the film that successfully demonstrate Pierre’s fascination. The cinematography hypnotizes us enough to forget our vapid protagonist. In the film’s final act, Salvador introduces a sci-fi twist that nearly revives the previous hour, but by this point, the hallucinatory or supernatural phenomenon appears imperfect. The surreal concept echoes a tradition of films and literature imaging miraculous powers hidden at the mountaintop. Still, The Mountain lost its bearings far before this final attempt to scale our expectations. 113 min.