There’s a quiet and contemplative nature to The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me. It’s almost monastic in its adherence to silent thoughtfulness. Embodying more a feeling than a narrative, The Mountains is set in the Himalayas in Nepal. In this first feature by Cedric Cheung-Lau, we journey with two travelers as they make their way across the spectacular horizon of the Annapurna Mountain Range.
The landscape is certainly breathtaking, all shot on location, and truly highlights the majesty and brilliance of nature’s spectacle. Coupled with tolling of deep bells, it’s hard not to imagine yourself lost in a reverie instead of a feature film. But as beautiful as the landscape is, the lack of any true plot impedes the ultimate message of the film. Much of the film requires the viewer to fill in blanks with what small information is given.
Hannah (Alice Cummins) is a grieving traveler. Soft-spoken (like the film) there are glimpses of the life she might have had before she found herself on this perilous trek, but the truth is lost in the haze of the script. With her is Tukten (Sanjaya Lama), a Nepalese trek guide who is preparing to leave for Dubai to work as a laborer before he meets Hannah. Although he is meant to leave for his trip, we see him deciding to change his plans and follow Hannah as a guide, despite her desire for a solitary trip.
The moments that really sing are when Cheung-Lau lingers on the environment around them. Yes, oftentimes it feels like a slow advertisement for an adventure in Nepal, but it’s impossible to deny the feeling of being insignificant in the face of the colossal summits and plunging valleys of the mountain range. And with a crew of only nine, The Mountains feels like a feat of sheer will on the director’s behalf, finding fantastic vistas filled with sumptuous color for our eyes only.
It is an intimate story, one that hides itself in the face of those who question it. It is not something to understand but rather something to experience. The Mountains turns film-watching into a near-meditative experience.