On children IV

film 2 of 4

Treeless Mountain

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 10, 2015

Night of the Hunter!—without the robbery or Robert Mitchum. It’s a hard world for little ones, but in the end they abide. On the way to very convincingly making this point, Treeless Mountain is defiantly sub-dramatic. Or it leaves the drama outside the frame, and outside the consciousness or understanding of its young protagonists. The early result is a frustrating formlessness—appropriate to the subject, challenging to the viewer. The casual cruelties, the neglect and general adult inadequacy effectively array our sympathies, at least at first. But then again, the bad guys have their moments, and the kids aren’t always so angelic.

More than that, the children acquire a kind of self-reliance, not only in figuring out things that pressingly need to be done, but even in finding fun for themselves. By the end, when their Grandmother provides the first attentive or consistently kindly adult care (that nice neighbour notwithstanding), and when the frame opens up for about the first time, we’ve all passed through something together, and the result is quite and quietly powerful.

These children are great. Not overly cute or anything, and they are clearly, partly, shot in ways that allowed them just to be, and not play act. Admiration also for the very close up, plane-shifting, narrow depth of field cinematography.