Mountain Movie Script : Pure Visual Poetry by Robert Macfarlane 2017

mountain movie script 2017 macfarlane-defoe

Ever since I returned from Whitney, I’ve been engaged in three primary activities: 1) writing all about the experience and my feelings around it, 2) acquiring a technical climbing gear stockpile, and 3) binge watching every rock climbing and mountaineering movie I can find. Which, just in time, brought me to the grand finale of such films, a masterpiece of visual poetry called simply, Mountain (2017) [I found out its formal title is in fact Mountain: A Breathtaking Voyage into the Extreme. While watching it, the power of the poetic word strikes me, and I cannot be alone in asking: Where can I find the Mountain movie script?

Well, I’ve saved you hours of Google searching. between Internet Archive and a strange Japanese site, and a few hours of editing and formatting, I present it to you here, in 92% of its entirety.

Background: Robert Macfarlane wrote the book Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit, back in 2004. (I have yet to read it; it was re-published as a 20th anniversary edition in 2024… I am waiting for my original copy to arrive).

I guess my summary is this: more than any other mountaineering movie, Mountain spoke to my soul. Its constantly flowing collage of epic alpine adventure imagery — put up on screen without any explanation or context — is overlaid with a live classical symphony performance (Spotify)– a flowing montage including Chopin, Vivaldi, Beethoven as well as original segments by Tegnetti.

I highly encourage you to watch the movie in its entirety, here’s the trailer:

If you’re like me, you realise that this script… delivered in spurts by a calm and eerie Willem Defoe, is worthy of reading, and perhaps reading again. For those who have such interests, I present you with the Mountain movie script / transcript. Enjoy:


the Mountain Movie Script


written by William McFarlane
spoken by Willem Defoe

To those who are enthralled by mountains,
they’re wonders beyond all disputes.

To those who are not —
they are always a kind of madness.

What is this strange force
that draws us upwards?

This siren song…
of the summit?


“Those who dance are considered mad
by those who cannot hear their music.”


Only three centuries ago,
setting up to climb a mountain
would have been considered
an act of lunacy.

The idea scarcely existed
that wild landscapes might hold
any sort of attraction.

Mountains were
places of peril,
not beauty.

An upper world
to be shunned,
not sought out.

How then have mountains
now come to hold us spellbound?

…drawing us into their dominion,
often at the cost
of our lives?

Because the mountains we climb
are not made only
of rock and ice

But also dreams…
And desire.

The mountains we climb
are mountains of the mind.

To humans, high mountains
were once considered
the home of either the holy… or the hostile.
…there was nothing in between.

Around to be revered from below
…but never entered.
Go around mountains if necessary,
along their flanks, perhaps…
but not up them.

For only gods and monsters
dwelt at heights.
The upper world
was a sacred landscape
to which we directed our devotion…
and our rituals of awe.

But always from
the safe distance.

Daily life brought ample hardship and danger.
There was no need to seek out more.

Gradually though,
the dragons and divinities
were put to flight
and our feelings toward mountains
underwent an astonishing change.

Fascination replaced trepidation.
Adventure replaced reverence.

As cities grew,
and we insulated ourselves away from nature
…the mountains called us back.

The magic of mountains strengthened…
Their fierce beauty,
Their power to enchant,
Their challenge.

We went in search of places
that were intimidating
and uncontrollable.
…that inspired in us the heady blend
of pleasure
and terror.

…which we came to call
the sublime.

This search for the sublime
took us outwards and upwards.

The great peaks of the world
begin to exert a force
upon the imagination.

A siren song that was easy to hear.
…hard to resist.
and sometimes… fatal.


But legends of death in high places
spread the spell of the mountains
wider still.

Slowly the blank spaces on the maps
were filled in.

The Imperial aim was
to grid, girdle and name
the upper world.
…to bring it and it’s peoples
within the realm of the known
and the owned.
…to replace Mystery —
with mastery.

And the greatest mystery of them all…

And so began the campaign
to vanquish it.

Everest was placed under siege.
…until at last, it succumbed.

This was the moment
that mountaineering as adventure
entered the popular imagination.

Our fascination
became an obsession.

Now our need for mountains
runs deep and wide.

For most of us exist
for most of the time
in environments
that are humanly arranged
and controlled.

But mountains are wild
and ungovernable.
This is the source of their danger
And also the source of their allure.

And so a longing for the unknown
that calls us onwards
like Echo’s cave;

the Unknown will answer back
with whatever you call into it.

To travel to the high peaks
is to cross a threshold
into a space where time warps…
and bends.
…and sensations
are thrillingly amplified.

Stone and ice, though
are far less gentle to
the hand’s touch
than to the mind’s eye.

The mountains of the Earth
have often turned out to be more resistant,
more fatally real
than the mountains we imagine.

These are matters
of hard sharp rock and driving ice.

A bone deep cold.
Nothing ideal.
Injury and nausea.
Fizzing fear.
Of stomach turning vertigo.

But… they’re also places
of unspeakable beauty.

And so the peaks summon us still.

Sharpening our sense of being.
Setting life on a knife edge.
For danger can hold terrible joys.
Dreadful splendors.

Today mountains are considered
among nature’s most exquisite features.

No longer due to
their chaotic forms
upsetting the spirit level
of our minds.

Now, we migrate to them
in our millions each year,
pursuing our strange pilgrimages.

A very modern mountain worship
has taken hold.

A worship that requires
the modification of the mountains.
…and the management of their risks.

And in doing so,
we have come to forget
something of their power.

What odd devotions we undertake.
What curious performances we put on.
With the mountains as our theater.

To certain people
the call to adventure
is irresistible.

As everyday life has become safer
and more comfortable for some.
We’ve begun to seek out danger elsewhere.

We court danger.
We pay for it.
Risk has become
its own reward.

At height
you can be taken
right to the brink.

For you never feel so alive
knowing that at any minute…
you could die.

So up to the mountains we go
in headlong pursuit of peril.
Or a testing ground
on which the self
can best be illuminated.

Today’s adventurers are driven
by the lust to reach somewhere
no-one has reached before.
And to do something
no-one has done before.

Our wish to be first
induces in us
forms of insanity.
…and forms of grace.

Adventurers sometimes liken fear to a rat.
When you take risks you feed the rat with fear.
But each time you feed that fear it grows fatter.
So then you must feed it more fear to sate it.
And yet more again and then still more.
Until a madness bites.


How has it come to this?
The mountains as a stage set
for a pumped-up poker game
of high stakes, and higher returns.
All driven by big brands
hoarding views, counting clicks.

Many who travel to the mountain tops
are half in love with themselves,
and half in love with oblivion.

Today’s mountain mania
culminates on Everest.
Where the wish to test one’s limits,
or to battle one’s demons
draws thousands of people
to the peak each year.

Attempting Everest
offers a way
for the ordinary person
to be briefly extraordinary.

But the nature of the challenge
has in many ways changed.

This isn’t climbing anymore.
It’s queuing.

This isn’t exploration.
It’s crowd control.

This is the modern industry of ascent.
…in which the risks
are often taken most
by those
who have least.

But mountains exceed our command.
They slip our grip.

And there is no glory
for those who are left behind.

Mountains are so much more
than a challenge…
or an adversary to be overcome.

For mountains humble the human instant.
And reveal our insignificance.

They live in deep time.
…in a way that we do not.

Behind and beyond
the mountains
stretch eons too vast
for us to comprehend.

They were here long before
we were even dreamed of.

They watched us arrive.
They will watch us leave.


Born of fire.
Born of force.
Mountains move.

Over epochs
they rise and fall.

This is the symphony
of the Earth.

A rhythm of uplift and
erosion that makes
not waves of water…
But waves of stone.

And from these
waves of stone
flows life.


Being in the mountains can
ignite our astonishment
at the simplest transactions
of the living world.

Anyone who has been among mountains
knows their indifference.
Has felt a brief blazing sense
of the world’s disinterest in us.

In small measures…
This feeling exhilarates.
In full form…
It annihilates.

Coming back to Earth
from the high peaks
You can feel like a stranger.
…bearing experiences
that are beyond expression…
…and beyond price.

Time has flown over you
but left its shadow

Mountains don’t seek our love…
…or seek our deaths.
They want nothing from us.
and yet…
they shift the way
we see ourselves.

They weather our spirits.
Challenge our arrogance.
Restore our wonder.

More than ever…
We need their wildness.


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