By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Monte starts off as an intriguing family drama but soon descends into self-parody and pure silliness.
A family in medieval Italy are pushed to the edge of poverty and tragedy, and take their frustration out on the volcano above them.
One of the titles in the Feature Film Competition of Prague’s 2018 Festival of Iranian Films, Monte aka Mountain had some expectations. It premiered at Venice International Film Festival in 2016 and is the latest project by one of Iran’s leading directors, Amir Naderi (The Runner).
This is clearly a film that relies heavily on cinematography and sound design, which Naderi has spent some serious time on. The stunning shots of the jagged and rocky landscape, as well as the overall set and production design is very well-done, but it’s the guttural and haunting magmatic echoes of the looming volcano that really add a sense of dread and mystery to the film. There’s also no soundtrack, which in the beginning is an advantage, but not for long…
You can’t help but marvel at Monte’s artistic ambitions, not to mention the fact that Naderi has now directed films in four different countries and languages. It was exciting to see what he’d do here. The family, led by troubled father Agostino (Andrea Sartoretti) give fairly solid performances and their struggle is more than convincing, but then everything goes awry when Naderi obsesses over metaphors that are fairly trivial and just plain boring.
Why? Run-down father Agostino, on the brink of death, attempts to take down the mountain with nothing but a great big rock hammer, while his wife silently weeps and brings him food. What starts off as a metaphoric and (kind of) relatable third act turns into a head-pounding self-parody of volcanic proportions. A truly irritating piece of cinema.
Even Naderi’s stunning sound work becomes monotonous and pointless. The grunts and moans of the father-son hammer party end up sounding almost pornographic. Never have I been more disappointed and frustrated with a finale in my life.
Monte is either extremely pretentious art, or pure drivel that Naderi simply made for a laugh. Either way, this film was ruined.
Photo: Venice International Film Festival