Ghost Mountaineer: Lost in the genre mountains
by David González
- The first feature by Estonian filmmaker Urmas Eero Liiv is a lively and uninhibited take on the adventure flick, toying with every genre that could be mixed in
A group of Estonian students decides to set off to Siberia for a hiking trip in some far-away mountains very close to Irkutsk and the Mongolian border, during the Soviet era. From the Trans-Siberian Railway to the cold, inhospitable snowy landscapes of inner Asia, the group of friends seems to be leaving fate to do all the work for them – reasonable decisions do not seem easy to make, and things do not appear to turn out as planned. Olle (Reimoo Sagor), Eero (Priit Pius), Inge (Hanna Martinson), Anne (Liis Lass), Margus (Veiko Porkanen) and Ints (Rait Õunapuu) are a diverse bunch of people with different interests: geology (the trip is a quest for nephrite, one of the various mineral types known as jade), hiking or just plain having fun. All of this seems, nevertheless, to be put on the back burner as soon as tragedy sets in – and when the titular “ghost mountaineer” makes an appearance. The first feature by Estonian filmmaker Urmas Eero Liiv, Ghost Mountaineer [+see also:
film profile], really kicks off when the adventure turns darker than expected. Liiv starts depicting a hodgepodge of events, and the varied perceptions that the characters have of them, in adrenaline-infused fashion, which was warmly received by the audience at Tallinn's Black Nights Film Festival, where the film is screening in the Tridens First Feature section.
That tragedy is none other than the main leader, Olle, getting lost in the mountains. His disappearance raises a handful of questions and suspicions among his fellow adventurers: did he really die? Is he still out there? What is really going on? This doubt becomes more and more persistent when the remaining members of the group arrive at the closest Buryatian village, a community stuck in the middle of Soviet authoritarianism and ancestral, supernatural beliefs. The story, which had been introduced as a standard flashback recounted by the people involved via a voice-over, becomes a lively and uninhibited mixture of genres: over the course of the adventure flick, thriller, horror, supernatural and even drama are cobbled together, producing fair-to-middling results. Ghost Mountaineer's look at paranoia and nearly inexplicable –or very poorly explained – events is fundamentally based on editing tricks, attempting to flood the viewer's senses with fiery images and sound cuts, by-the-numbers frights and bold insertions of different imagery.
Despite all of this, Liiv's first feature, filled with energy as it is, has a raison d'être: it is the telling of a story based on real events that happened to him. The film, produced by Estonian outfit Kopli Kinokompanii, also testifies to the power of the country's industry, which can achieve a somewhat good-looking production in what also happens to be the first Estonian genre film in decades (read more). The film was shot in the Val di Fassa, supported by Italy's Trentino Film Commission.