Release Date – 12th May 2023, Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 27 minutes, Directors – Felix van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch
Over multiple decades growing up separately in the city and countryside childhood friends Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) keep returning to the peace of the Italian alps.
There’s a sense of peace and calm in the silences of The Eight Mountains. The quiet isn’t used to emphasise something which has come beforehand or to make a point, it’s simply used as what it is. Silence. Nothing needs to be said between the two central friends at the heart of the film. They’re happy enough in each other’s company and, assisted by the surroundings of the Italian alps. This isn’t to say that the moments of silence don’t add to anything, at times they feel like moments of deeper reflection within the narrator’s mind.
An adult Pietro (Luca Marinelli) guides us through the events of the film from childhood summers in the countryside where he first meets farmworker Bruno (Allessandro Borghi) to continued meetings in adulthood in the same location (Lupo Barbiero and Cristiano Sassella on childhood duties for the pair respectively). The box-like aspect ratio brings to mind the feeling of old polaroids being looked at, each one continuing the story. The frequent use of Daniel Norgren tracks acting as the one nostalgic record from the holiday cottage taking him further back to those days. Days which span decades of a closely-bonded friendship.
The pair develop distant relationships with the father figures in their lives – eventually leading to a key emotional sequence of discovery in the later stages of the piece. Yet, there’s a close male bond between them creating for a gentle friendship throughout. They may change themselves as they grow up (in a believable, natural way) yet despite time jumps we know they’re the same people thanks to their relationship. After having not seen each other for years they plan to rebuild a house together on the mountains. “This is our summer house, where we’ll see each other every year” Pietro says, almost demanding a promise from his friend. In a similar vein you genuinely believe him when he assures over the phone “I’ll be on my way as fast as I can”.
At two-and-a-half hours you never question the film’s run-time or where it’s going. The pacing, like the central relationship, is relaxed and guides you along with ease as you’re given time to drink in both the stunning surroundings (the natural environment is truly amazing to look at) and the places we see the core pair go in their own lives – largely led by Pietro’s perspective – in the brief gaps between when they next see each other and return to the mountain just up from where Bruno lives and works. Both characters have their wants for where they want life to take them, although occasionally question the course and themselves, adding to the natural progression of life that the film charts.
You stay with it because of just how much you buy into the care and love that Pietro and Bruno have for each other. Brought about through the performances and the scripting of their various meetings over the years there’s a lot to be caught by as the events play out amongst the well-captured scenery and landscapes. The silence in the safety and security of the alps is pure silence marking a true place of escape, yet one where there is confrontation of past relationships with other men in the character’s lives. There are a handful of different male relationships on display, yet the core focus is that of a calm, gentle friendship guiding the film and making for rather moments of genuine profundity throughout.
The central performances mix with the gentleness of The Eight Mountains to make for an engaging depiction of male friendship amongst the effective dramas of the central pairs lives. Like looking back on old photograph memories with stunning scenery it’s a truly compelling piece of work.