For decades, the cinema shaped and perfected the image of masculinity that was held on the street and has lasted to this day: Men don’t cry, they don’t have feelings, they’re hard as rocks. But with the new century came new masculinities, doubts, questions, the need to recontextualize and confront clichés, questioning, once and for all, what it means to be a man in the 21st century. ‘The Eight Mountains’ speaks in a silent but inevitably loud way about the sentimental masculine impossibility in a time when finding your place in the world is a challenge in itself.
It’s a guy love between two guys
‘The Eight Mountains’ is not a film that follows the standardized rhythms of mainstream cinema: instead of advancing the plot, is dedicated to painting, with a small brush, all the details that outline two characters, Pietro and Bruno, whose friendship over the decades is cemented in the search for the place in the universe of each one of them. One cannot, does not want to or does not know how to get out of the mountain where he grew up, paradise and prison at the same time. Another finds its value on the other side of the planet, where to get away from the shadow of a father whom he never quite knew enough.
Two people united by sentimental silence, the most painful masculinity, say nothing to say absolutely everything. Pietro and Bruno don’t need to talk every day to know that they are pieces that complement each other and without which their puzzle is not complete. It doesn’t matter that, more and more, the visits to the mountain are spaced out as one of them discovers more about himself: each reunion is experienced as if no time had passed. But she has done it. And in what way
‘The Eight Mountains’ poses an exciting dichotomy between the city man, imprisoned between cars in a steel prison, and the mountain man, free and happy to feel alone, as part of nature, but at the same time aware that a simple slip in those places can be fatal. Pietro’s father stands between both worlds, as if his dual personality was divided, some time later, between the two friendswho separate their paths and become people who, by not depending on each other, really do so more than ever.
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The subtlety of the tape always takes you delicately throughout its two and a half hours of footage that, indeed, could easily be cut. Sure but would lose nuances to a story that lives thanks to them: the loneliness in company, the messages from Pietro’s father on the top of the mountain, the inevitable discovery that going your own way can (and is often) unheard of and surprising, the family lost because of an inherited character, insensitivity when the worst of your omens is fulfilled.
The tonality of ‘The Eight Mountains’, which swings between the innocence of its first bars and the hopelessness of a third act that never stops twisting, is so rich and layered that one can only admire the great work of Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandersmeersch in capturing it perfectly. two lives that run emotionally perpendicular but with a single point in common: a perennial and incombustible friendship.
The comparison with ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is not trivial, a film based on the relationship between two people and the importance of the mountain in their lives. There, as a way to live their love freely. Here, as the central (and only) place of an existence that makes it her only real foothold: locked in her own head and with her repressed feelings, Bruno uses her as an excuse not to face his real problems.relegating his family and friends to ostracism to focus on a natural landscape as beautiful as it is dangerous.
Friends forever, means you’ll always be my friend
Accustomed as we are to cathartic scenes where the characters meet after being lost for a while and share emotions and feelings, it is even more shocking to see in ‘The Eight Mountains’ how overcomes the diffident, the reading between the lines, the friendship that, absolutely contrary to toxicity, is as pure as it is inexpressive. Pietro and Bruno move away from envy and the troubles of an intimate relationship to bring closer what unites them trying to understand what separates them.
And yet, it would be a mistake to believe that the film falls into sweetness: in the best of moments, when joy bubbles through the bodies of both friends and they find themselves at the intersection of their relationship, the atmosphere is bittersweet. Because they can spend a moment together and celebrate, of course, but their father is gone, their paths have parted ways and it’s the only way they can both be happy at the same time: knowing that the other person will be there for them for a few months before disappearing again.
‘The Eight Mountains’ is one of the great movies of 2023 on their own merits. That its duration and the aridity that you can intuit from its poster and plot do not prevent you from seeing reality: it is a film full of inhibited emotions that recontextualizes masculinity by filling it with phrases that remain unsaid, fidelity against all odds, ineffable love and a need, now more present than ever, to leave your mark on a path full of rocky climbs and sentimental impediments. Essential.
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