Three US soldiers are left to fight for survival after being trapped behind enemy lines during World War II. Here is our review of Johnny Herbin’s new short film the 7-minute war drama ‘Mountain’.
I would think most of us would be in agreement that war is bad and nowhere does this hit home more than on our TV and cinema screens with any number of war films or documentaries that are available for us to watch. Nowadays at the push of a button.
Every conflict has its stories and every conflict has given film-makers a rich tapestry on which to make their points; whether they be political as in the work of Oliver Stone and Spielberg or simply as entertainment like the British propaganda comedies of the 30′s and 40′s and the mindless action flicks of the 80′s. The latter usually consisting of one man taking on an entire country’s armed forces while racking up a death toll only surpassed by the bloodshed. Johnny Herbin’s new short ‘Mountain’ is an altogether different animal that falls, strangely into neither category. It is a human drama with a little bit of action and to my mind has no real political aspirations.
Beautifully filmed in stark black and white by cinematographer Darren Eggenschwiller it is clear there is a definite Terrence Malick influence in the proceedings here. There are shots of different objects, focusing on imagery and the surrounding environment as opposed to the action. Herbin is determined to make his protagonists in ‘Mountain’ into heroes and that their mission is honourable. It’s hard to argue with his decision. The theme is the call of duty against horrifying odds, not the rage of politics and destruction of the human mind. The film champions the closeness of brotherhood and dismays at the seemingly wasteful slaughter of soldiers who put everything on the line for all of us. Punctuated throughout by a dramatic score by composer Oliver Lodge adds to the drama and helplessness of the situation our protagonists find themselves in.
The story structure itself isn’t particularly original it is the study of 3 members of a company trying to survive behind enemy lines, we have seen this journey before in any number of war movies, but what lifts this short above others is in its use of silence. There is no dialogue in ‘Mountain’ just the wistful voiceover of an ageing veteran telling us what happened, what they were involved in and the pain and suffering they went through. The three main cast members give wonderfully nuanced performances especially the main soldier ‘Knowles’ played by Wam Siluka Jr. These soldiers are certainly real people, who have been tossed and turned by doubts and fears but they are hardly the broken dropouts and psychos that seem to have populated the genre over the years. Herbin is asking a straightforward but profound question. How do ordinary men deal with the extraordinary circumstances of war and with what they are required to do in the name of their country?
The incidents within ‘Mountain’ do lack the shocking immediacy of its big-budget counterparts and it never feels like the war is a hell nightmare that it should, but as a tribute to the dignity of soldiers facing attacks on both their bodies and minds, it succeeds in giving us a low key and minimalist take on a particular moment in time during a very dark period in our history. Also with a run time of just under 7 minutes, there is no excuse to not catch the film if you can.